MBNA property investors are Geppi, Skayhan and Pineau

By Lorie Costigan | Jun 30, 2005
File Photo MBNA Building

Camden — Partners of Maine Investment Properties are Steve Geppi, Walter Skayhan and Richard Pineau. The trio recently signed a purchase and sale agreement with MBNA for properties in Camden, Rockland, Northport and Belfast in what is the largest real estate deal in recent memory in the Midcoast.

Pineau was in Camden and Rockland June 29. MIP's interest in the properties is based more on reselling the buildings or individual units thereof rather than leasing, according to Pineau.

That approach is good news for some of the current leaseholders of the buildings throughout the Midcoast, including buildings leased by the city of Rockland and the Camden Teen Center.

Pineau is a businessman from Baltimore, Md. who sold his family's roofing company in 1999.

Geppi is the chief executive of Diamond Comic Distributors of Maryland. That company provides comic book specialty retailers with wholesale, nonreturnable comic books and related merchandise. He is also a minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team and the publisher of Baltimore magazine.

Skayhan is owner of William J. Skayhan & Associates of Baltimore and is currently working with Pineau in a $23 million project to develop a biotechnical research center in Baltimore. As reported today in City Paper of Baltimore, a third of Skayhan's real estate development portfolio is working with drug treatment in the Baltimore area, including Man Alive and mobile methadone clinics.

Skayhan confirmed June 29 via e-mail that he has developed several "meth centers."

"We are finishing one at this time," he wrote. "It’s called REACH Mobile Health. They are a mobile meth program. They actually drive a big van out to various church parking lots and serve their clients. This avoids the need for a fixed site."

In addition to buying the Midcoast properties sold by MBNA, Skayhan and Pineau bought Bracebridge Hall in Earlsville, Md. from MBNA in 2004, as reported last week. That deal was in excess of $13 million for the 560-acre, riverside mansion and pasturelands.

Little has been done with that property since, Pineau said. "Given the situation in Iraq we opened it to wounded soldiers from Walter Reed [Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.] and we had a barbedue and concert and Cal Ripken Jr. was there."

So was Maryland's governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., but Pineau was quick to insist the party was not political.

"The only thing we have done there so far is bring people there to enjoy it," he said of the Earleville estate. "It is beautiful."

The home and land could become home to an equestrian center, Pineau said.

In a City Paper (Baltimore) article published last week, reporter Van Smith reported the land could also become a sporting community. He quoted Skayhan as saying an engineering firm is studying a possible sporting community subdivision for 80 to 100 units of high-end housing.

Yet away from Maryland's fresh waterways and to the coastline of the Atlantic, how, exactly, the trio will redevelop the Midcoast properties remains uncertain.

Pineau said that the trio is sensitive to the concerns of local government and community members and that they have already met with a handful of local officials to learn more about the properties and any hurdles to redevelopment.

But looking to the future of the sites means looking first to the past, Pineau said.

Pineau confirmed that MIP has met with Camden resident Charles Cawley, the former chief executive officer of MBNA and the man often credited with being the creative force behind developing MBNA's Midcoast properties, including the Knox Mill in Camden, a new waterfront call center and boardwalk along Rockland's Harbor, and Point Lookout, a 420-acre mountainside retreat in Northport.

In all, the Midcoast properties are assessed in excess of $50 million.

Pineau said the three investors spoke with Cawley last week out of respect and courtesy.

"He obviously put a great deal of thought and vision into these properties and we wanted to meet with him," Pineau said.

Cawley let some of his interests in the roles the buildings play in the community be known, Pineau said.

Leaseholders of some of those properties, notably the city of Rockland, have also been eager to meet with the investors and take a look at the future.

On June 22 in Camden, officials from the city of Rockland and local businesses met with Skayhan to discuss the future of Skayhan's extensive Rockland holdings.

Bob Hastings, chief executive officer of the Rockland-Thomaston Area Chamber of Commerce, said he and Rockland City Manager Tom Hall met with Skayhan for about three-and-a-half hours that Wednesday in a quickly organized meeting.

Skayhan made some major promises, Hastings said, including a vow to keep the popular public boardwalk around the former MBNA operations center open to the public. "I asked him, and [Skayhan] said, 'It's done,'" said Hastings.

Skayhan also offered to open the ex-MBNA parking lot to the public during the Maine Lobster Festival, Hastings said, and preserve the lease for the new Maine Lighthouse Museum. "[Skayhan] said he was excited to be part of [the museum]," said Hastings. "He wants to be a part of this community."

In a separate telephone interview, Skayhan reiterated his intention to keep the boardwalk in one piece.

"So many town mayors would love to have this type of redevelopment on their hands," Skayhan said. "All systems are installed and it is not as if the developer has to come to the town and ask for a brown field [toxic site] to be cleaned or for extensive new drainage work -- it's all been done."

In addition, Pineau said the MIP purchase would not affect the Camden Teen Center on Knowlton Street or the Camden Area Christian Food Pantry on Mt. Battie Street.

"We are not radicals and I would think the community would embrace that fact," Pineau said. "We see the potential for ownership of the mill buildings and we do not at this time anticipate breaking off any of the larger properties [like Point Lookout]."

He added, "In most cases we will be looking for condominium owners and retail. We understand that housing is a concern and we want to see more owners than renters."
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