City Commissioner Julie Martin sees the untapped potential for downtown Brunswick.
Martin, a real estate broker, looks at the top floors of many of the buildings downtown that are currently vacant and are waiting for new tenants. And those tenants aren’t likely to be new businesses.
“Brunswick has always had the potential,” she said. “Now the lightbulb is going off.”
Martin is among many who believe the time is right to create more lofts and apartments downtown as a way to meet the growing demand by people who want to live close to the restaurants, shops and many businesses nearby.
“There’s an awful lot of underutilized second- and third-floor space downtown,” she said. “There is a demand for rental space downtown. We’re crying out for it now.”
And once they move downtown, new residents embrace the lifestyle and stay for a long time.
“They rarely turn over,” she said. “I’m excited about the interest downtown.”
Martin calls downtown residents “urbanists” who like the energy and atmosphere of a city’s downtown.
“They want to push the demand for restaurants and pubs,” she said. “People want a walkable community.”
There aren’t many buildings downtown that have the upper floors converted to apartments or lofts, but several private businesspeople have purchased large commercial buildings and announced plans to create more living space downtown.
“We’ve been waiting on the private sector to come in” Martin said.
Martin believes young professionals and college students will drive the demand for lofts downtown.
“It’s perfect for millennials. They’re not collectors of stuff,” she said.
As developers complete their renovations of some of the vacant commercial buildings downtown, Martin said city commissioners will have to look at city ordinances such as density restrictions to ensure they don’t discourage development.
“I feel like we are nimble enough as a commission to change density,” she said. “I’m really excited we’re at this point now.”