City starts review of Naron's waterfront plans

Proposal features restaurants, retail and a much-expanded marina
By Ethan Andrews | Dec 11, 2018
Source: Belfast Planning Office A drawing of 7 Front St. as it might look after renovations proposed by Paul Naron, who recently bought the waterfront property from French & Webb.

Belfast — Details are emerging about developer Paul Naron's plan to overhaul a section of the Belfast waterfront, as the plan makes its way through the city permitting process.

Naron, a retired hardware business owner who turned a Spring Street warehouse and former window showroom into the popular United Farmers Market, has been quietly extending his holdings around Belfast Common. In 2017 he bought a 0.7-acre waterfront property at 15 Front St. from Consumers Fuel, and in June he picked up the neighboring French & Webb building and 1-acre lot at 7 Front St.

Naron was not immediately available to comment on the project Dec. 11, but the broad strokes of the plan are laid out in a letter to the city from project engineer Gartley & Dorsky.

The former French & Webb building at 7 Front St. would become the new home to United Farmers Market of Maine, currently two blocks away on Spring Street. The building would be accessible on the upper level from Front Street. The harbor side would be extended to make room for a restaurant.

The barrel-roof building at 15 Front St. would be renovated as a second restaurant. The rest of the property, which is vacant today, would become a parking lot for the two properties. An existing marina at 15 Front St. would be expanded significantly with a second row of docks added at 7 Front St. That plan is currently being reviewed by the city's Harbor Committee.

The Harbor Walk, which runs through both properties, would remain open for public use, according to the application.

On Dec. 10, the plans won approval from the city's Intown Design Review Committee, which has authority over the appearance of downtown buildings. The committee suggested minor changes to upper-story windows of the former French & Webb building, but otherwise waved the design through as presented.

The Planning Board is scheduled to review the application Dec. 12 and again Jan. 9, then present recommendations to the City Council.

Council approval is required because the waterfront properties are designated for contract rezoning, a system that allows developers flexibility while giving the city control over how a property is developed. Front Street Shipyard and the Crosby Center are recent examples of properties redeveloped through contract rezoning.

The former French & Webb building at 7 Front St., pictured in June, shortly after it was sold to developer Paul Naron. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Drawings of proposed changes to a building at 15 Front St. include a new deck around the building. (Source: Belfast Planning Office)
A drawing of a proposed interior overhaul at 7 Front St. shows a restaurant inside a planned addition to the harbor-facing side of the building. (Source: Belfast Planning Office)
A barrel-roof building at 15 Front St., right, pictured in 2017, would be renovated as a restaurant as part of a larger redevelopment now being reviewed by the city. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Comments (2)
Posted by: John E Marshall | Dec 12, 2018 09:51

I hope that the "new" Belfast can support two more restaurants. I'm remembering the controversy over whether there would be sufficient parking for the facility proposed by Dana Keane on the opposite corner years ago. Unfortunately that didn't work. Better luck this time.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Dec 12, 2018 09:00

Beautiful drawings!  Is there 25 parking spaces for the restaurant?  The design shows a 76 seat restaurant which would require 25 parking spaces if the one space per three seats is still the ordinance.  Parking at the waterfront is at a premium now as it is, and not sure how many variance/waivers have been used in the current city lots.

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