Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brunswick’s Gaga Ladies and the Romance of The Rails….

(Editor’s note: cumbersome as it may be, we ask readers to understand the term “Lady” and “Prince” to have both singular and plural meanings in our story.  The indefinite nature of each, and a way to express it would detract, we fear, from the telling of the tale.)

Herewith an allegory for Brunswick.  The story has had an inconceivable conception, complicated gestation, and problematic delivery.  As you’ll hear in our telling, if you stay with us until the end (of this tale, that is.)  We’re hoping to stop our troubled pacing over it all, and move on to other things.




Remember the movie Romancing the Stone?  That’s what came to mind as we first thought about this post.  We decided that whether we played off that theme or not, ‘romancing’ should have a leading role in our story.

Here we are then, with a love tale of sorts, symbolic yet all too real, in three parts: the romancing and courtship; the proposal and wedding; and finally, the wandering eyes and broken vows that signal failure of the union, and steadfast denial of the truth.

                   Ladies of Brunswick

Our story revolves around Ladys of Brunswick, the beguiling beauties who we sometimes use to symbolize looking for love in all the wrong places.  They have a penchant for going gaga over the ministrations of various Prince Charmings, of whom there are plenty vying for their attention.



                            

Sounds exciting and spellbinding, doesn’t it?  And it might be so, if their swooning was fictional, instead of all too real in the sense of long-term consequences for those who must pay the price of their ill-considered dalliances.

Bare with us as we sit around the proverbial camp-fire and tell our story.

The Romancing and Courtship:


It all begins when Lady Brunswick hearing of a wandering Prince Charming seeking fair damsel to impress with great and glorious promises.  Not wanting to reveal his plans too early, and become plighted only because of these proposals, the Prince disguised himself as a Knight of community economic benefit.  Should fair damsels show interest, the Prince would ride in triumphantly upon the great steel steed called Amtrak, and sweep them into his arms.

The Prince first visited town with wondrous tales of glories to come.  Encouraged by the damsel’s fluttering eyebrows and outreached hands, he continues to beguile the ladies with his charms.

He cites the learned works of various expert professionals who promise economic ecstasy if only all will succumb to his temptations…..such as these glorious projections for the year 2015 A.D.:

     image

and this as well….both from EDRG MDOT Study 2005:

EDRG 2005 MDOT Study snip 1

Sensing hearts a-twitter, the Prince offers further enticements of even greater economic glory from legendary wizards of TOD from far yonder lands, for generations yet to come (CNT AmtrakDowneasterOverviewofProjectedEconomicImpacts2.pdf):

CNT-NNEPRA 2008 Snip 4

…and this, which causes fainting spells among fair damsels….

CNT-NNEPRA 2008 Snip 3

The Proposal and Wedding:

The Lady of Brunswick, completely Gaga over these oaths of great blessings upon the community, convinces town fathers to gather up her dowry in preparation for offering to the Prince, whose charms have left her in his thrall.

Heart palpitating, the swooning Lady beseeches Prince Charming to show himself, and he does, aboard the great steel steed from lands to the south.



The Prince ask for the Lady’s hand with a prodigious proposal:



It includes housing for the court of the Lady:

image

Soon enough, the dowry is announced (http://www.greatamericanstations.com/Stations/BRK…)
In 2006, the Brunswick Town Council accepted a master plan recommending redevelopment by a private entity, and the following year, JHR Development was selected to lead the project. According to the conditions for development, 1,200 square feet had to be reserved for a future train station.
The project was divided into three parts. Phase I, which included the Bowdoin College Store and the building containing the Visitors Center, offices and retail, began construction in winter 2008. They were finished and occupied by fall 2009. Station Avenue, connecting Maine and Union Streets, was also cut through the site south of the proposed buildings. Phase II began in fall 2010 when ground was broken for the 52-room Inn at Brunswick Station. An office building was also constructed, and both projects were open by late summer 2011. Phase III will consist of a residential building with office and retail space on the ground floor. All of the buildings echo traditional New England architecture through the use of clapboard, shingles, multi-light windows and gables. Through a property exchange with Bowdoin College, the town plans to consolidate its administrative offices in an existing building directly southwest of Brunswick Station.
As of early 2012, public funding for Brunswick Station amounted to approximately $5.2 million obtained from the following sources: $750,000 through the EPA Brownfields Program; $902,500 from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; $300,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; $350,000 from Maine’s Municipal Investment Trust Fund, established by the state legislature to provide financial assistance for the design, construction and improvement of public service infrastructure and downtown renewal projects; $2.25 million in municipal bonds; and $668,594 expended by the town to acquire the property. The town government estimates that these public funds have leveraged more than $25 million in private investment by the developer.
Satisfied that he will prosper from the generosity of the fathers, the Prince prepares his proposal for Lady Brunswick.  And it is beyond everyone’s wildest imagining; the marriage is arranged and takes place.   All appears blissful.

image

Sadly, neither the Lady nor the town fathers insisted upon pre-nuptial agreements.  How could they, when it might risk bestowal of such wealth and blessing upon their ancient and humble village?  Lacking such assurances, none seemed to notice the breaking of the vow professed in June 2011 (http://mssbrunswickme.blogspot.com/):
Planning for Phase III, a 16-unit condominium complex (Noble Street), is underway. The condos will feature one-floor living in a secure building with easy access to beautiful downtown Brunswick. Call now to reserve and design your unit!
For more information, please call Mike Lyne at 207-729-0166 or visit http://www.brunswick-station.com/.
image

Nor that three of the initial tenants (four, if you include Best Buy), couldn’t survive the extreme public demand for their offerings.

When romance is in the air, such trivial details get lost in the euphoria of great economic benefit wherever one looks.  ‘Rail’ spelled backwards is liar it turns out, but no once seems to notice.  Just as backwards parking spaces, evident in the plans above, have been forgotten.

The Wandering Eyes and Broken Vows:

While others may not have noticed, your correspondent was rocked back on his proverbial heels when we came across this recent news item, published here:
Five condominium buildings are proposed along the Kennebec River in Bath, on the site of the historic and vacant "Coal Pocket" property.
By Alex Lear, The Forecaster
Posted June 17, 2015, at 3:07 p.m.
Last modified June 17, 2015, at 10:29 p.m.

BATH, Maine — The Bath Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the development of five condominium buildings along the Kennebec River, on the vacant site of the historic “Coal Pocket” property.

JHR Development — which has projects that include Brunswick Station and the Mid Coast Medical Group center at 108 Centre St. — received site plan, developmental subdivision and historic district approvals for the project.
Forty condominiums will be developed in five buildings of eight units each, according to a June 11 memo from planning director Andrew Deci to the planning board. The first floors will have interior parking. Two buildings will have frontage on Front Street, and two on Commercial Street, while one will be between a Sewall oil company building and the riverfront.
Observant as we are, this report caused us to become even more sensitive to local circumstances than we normally are.  So we’re going to bring this discussion to a conclusion with a ‘photographic essay’ that makes our larger point more poignantly than any words we might choose.
 
Feast your eyes, then, upon these signs of ‘great economic benefit,’ wherever you might look:

DSCN0566DSCN0580DSCN0586DSCN0585DSCN0584DSCN0583DSCN0582DSCN0581DSCN0579DSCN0578DSCN0577DSCN0576DSCN0575DSCN0574DSCN0573DSCN0572DSCN0571DSCN0570DSCN0569DSCN0568DSCN0567
DSCN0547 DSCN0548
DSCN0551 DSCN0544

As much as the world, and in particular, Brunswick’s symbolic Lady Gaga, love happy endings, we don’t appear to have one here, do we?  Some ladies can be so Gaga they never admit the Prince has jilted them for another (or is it tilted?)


        

Like most things in our perfect little town, though, it really doesn’t matter.  Because the proof is in the pudding, not in the poetic imagery of the recipe, or the fanciful garb of the chefs.

The question we’re left to ponder is what the real ending to the story will be.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stations, buses, light bulbs, and other fragrances on the summer air…..

We had occasion recently to do a bit of research into the history of Brunswick’s world class (Great American) downtown station, where buses and trains arrive to discharge and pick-up passengers.  We found this depiction of the master plan for the property, as proposed by JHR Development:
image
http://www.greatamericanstations.com/Stations/BRK
It may confuse you a bit, because two of the buildings shown don’t currently exist.  On the same site, we found this run down on the funding for the project:
As of early 2012, public funding for Brunswick Station amounted to approximately $5.2 million obtained from the following sources: $750,000 through the EPA Brownfields Program; $902,500 from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; $300,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; $350,000 from Maine’s Municipal Investment Trust Fund, established by the state legislature to provide financial assistance for the design, construction and improvement of public service infrastructure and downtown renewal projects; $2.25 million in municipal bonds; and $668,594 expended by the town to acquire the property. The town government estimates that these public funds have leveraged more than $25 million in private investment by the developer.
While we have some further work to do on the underlying details of this disclosure, we thought you’d enjoy being reminded that something like $3 million in direct town funds went into the project, along with a variety of sums from OPM (Oppem) accounts of several types.  In addition, we don’t want you to forget that our ‘community’ graciously budgets something like $80-100 thousand a year for operation of the Station departure center and maintenance tasks associated with the station property.
                      Image result for All aboard brunswick
This doesn’t phase the ladies of the Brunswick carriage set, of course.  But we wonder if they might be a bit troubled by this recent advisory from NNEPRA, the Maine state agency responsible for operating the Downeaster:
====================================================================


  • For this week surfacing crews continue to focus working between Wells and Old Orchard Beach stations
Service for Wednesday, July 15
Southbound
680 & 682
  • Depart Brunswick and/or Portland on-time
  • 10  minutes late into Old Orchard Beach
  • 10 - 15 minutes late into Saco
  • 20 - 25 minutes late into Wells
  • 25 - 30 minutes late into Dover
  • 30 minutes late into Durham
  • 30 minutes late into Exeter
  • 30 minutes late into Haverhill
  • 30 minutes late into Woburn
  • 30 - 35 minutes late into Boston
684 & 686 - Train service will operate servicing all stations from Dover to BostonPassengers from Portland and Wells will be transported by bus to Dover station to meet the train.
      Image result for light bulb clip art  
No service to/from Old Orchard Beach or Saco.                      
  • Anticipated to operate on-time.
688- Train service will operate servicing all stations from Wells to Boston only. Passengers from Brunswick, Freeport, and Portland will be transported by bus to Wells station to meet the train.
                                                        Image result for light bulb clip art
No service to/from Old Orchard Beach or Saco.
  • Anticipated to operate on-time.
Northbound
685, 687 & 689
  • Depart Boston On-Time
  • on-time into Woburn
  • on-time into Haverhill
  • on-time into Exeter
  • on time into Durham
  • 1 - 2  minutes late into Dover
  • 2 - 5  minutes late into Wells
  • 10 - 15 minutes late into Saco
  • 15 - 20 minutes late into Old Orchard Beach
  • 30 - 35  minutes late into Portland
  • 30 - 35 minutes late into Freeport
  • 35 minutes late into Brunswick
681 - Train service will operate servicing all stations from Boston to Dover only. Passengers travelling to Wells and Portland will be transported by bus from the Dover station.
                            Image result for light bulb clip art
No service to/from Old Orchard Beach or Saco.
  • Anticipated to operate on-time.
683 - Train service will operate servicing all stations from Boston to Dover only. Passengers travelling to Wells, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick will be transported by bus from the Dover station.
                                                    Image result for duh
No service to/from Old Orchard Beach or Saco.
•Anticipated to operate on-time.
Come to think of it, after reading the foregoing, we’re wondering whether the good ladies would like to meet and greet, or send off, those folks being transported on buses arranged by NNEPRA to replace the non-operating train service.
In the past, they’ve identified themselves with “AAB” to signify “All Aboard Brunswick!,” and happily handed out identifying stickers to those of like mind.
Under the circumstances, we think a revised happy sticker is in order, and we’ve volunteered our considerable graphic design talents to come up with this appropriate variation……
                  image
Our only concern is that the ladies aren’t particularly fond of light bulbs as portrayed here.  Sudden flashes of logic, fact, or awareness can be so unsettling.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The “Music Man” comes to town…twice!

Sometime this avocation of ours is as tough as pulling truth from an elected official; other times, it’s as easy as falling off a bandwagon.  Sometimes you’re the drum, sometimes you’re the drummer.  Sometimes you’re the Harp, sometimes you’re Harpo.

Imagine our delight then, as we pondered a brief new post, when we realized it would meld nicely with an item of current local interest.  If you’re a fan of the Maine State Music Theater, you know the classic, beloved show “The Music Man” begins it’s run this week.  Mrs. Side and your correspondent have probably seen it live a half dozen times over the years, and watched the movie and listened to the CD innumerable times.  It’s one of the best, and one of our true favorites.  We’re sure we’ll be thrilled by the local production as we view it from our front row seats, with the performers we’ve come to recognize and enjoy.

                                 Image result for duh

Turns out we had been pondering a post about the selling of the Downeaster when we felt serendipity slapping us on the forehead like a big hand with “D’OH” tattooed on it.  We thought of our oft-used drum majorette image, which would fit perfectly with leadership of the River City Band.

                               Image result for majorette

Why?  Because the community leader we think of as the head cheerleader for The Downeaster does her very best to create a marching band of public support for the passenger rail service that now comes to Brunswick, if only occasionally, and almost never on time.  Including responding to our challenges to conduct an economic benefit survey locally to prove the claims made for the service.

One claim in particular really dazzles us.  It’s embedded in this table…

          EDRG-2005-MDOT-Study-snip-2_thumb4

contained in this ‘study:’

                 EDRG 2005 MDOT Study snip 3

which you can find here:  http://www.edrgroup.com/pdf/report-downeaster-final.pdf

Here’s the nugget we take away from this “Final Report.”  $95 million a year in business sales in Brunswick equates to $260,000 per day.

That’s right,

$260,000 per day in business sales

in Brunswick attributable to the arrival of the Downeaster.  

It’s a glorious thing, isn’t it Marian?
                   

Let’s look a bit further.  Downeaster ridership for Brunswick, when it’s operating, runs in the range of 100 per day.  For purposes of discussion, we’ll assume that half those riders originate in our region and are heading south for fun, recreation, personal business, and any other reason for spending their dollars elsewhere.

And that the other half originated to the south and are coming to our area to do the same.  Now consider the reality that the average rider is on a round trip, and you end up with 25 riders from the south coming to Brunswick daily.

$260,000 in daily business sales means that each of those 25 riders must be spending $10,400 a day at our local establishments.  That, my friends is worth tooting your community horn about.



We haven’t even dreamed about the nearly 1,000 new jobs yet!  We’re convinced this is why the ladies of Brunswick are swooning in response to the great Professor’s message.

                           Image result for All aboard brunswick

You probably don’t recognize our local starlets in the MSMT publicity photo; that’s how good their costume and make-up artists are.

                              

Insiders told us that the producer wanted Wayne Davis, head of TRNE, to play the role of Professor Harold Hill; his MO seemed a perfect match for it.  But when he auditioned, they discovered he’s lost a step or five on his soft-shoe routine.

Similarly, Surely, we thought we had a good suggestion for the Eulalie McKecknie Shinn role too. But it turns out our choice didn’t have the right voice for the part.  Such a shame; we were looking forward to her handling of the “One Grecian Urn” number.

That’s show business, we guess.  Even in America’s perfect, richest little town.