Stephen Prince believes the timing is perfect to invest in downtown Brunswick, and he’s doing more than talking about it.
He purchased the Old Ford Building at 1608 Newcastle St., earlier this year and is now the new owner of the old SunTrust building on Gloucester Street.
Prince closed on the bank building sale on Monday and is already working on plans to renovate the 29,000-square-foot structure. On Thursday, Prince met with a landscaper to discuss plans outside, including planting two large shade trees in the parking lot behind the building.
Prince plans to convert the entire upper floor of the bank building into 20 lofts, ranging in size from 800 to 1,000 square feet. The challenge he faces is what to do on the first floor of the building with 30-foot ceilings, ornate chandeliers, lots of office space, a large bank vault and counters, and a drive-up window.
“I’m struggling with how to parcel it out. It’s so doggone big,” said Prince about the first floor.
He envisions as many as three commercial businesses occupying the first floor, all with separate entrances, if necessary.
“The big issue is how to break up the property,” he said.
Prince said he wasn’t planning to purchase the two-story bank building until he and his daughter, Courtney Prince, completed their plans to renovate the Old Ford Building. He realizes both projects will take time, but he believes downtown Brunswick will be transformed into a destination within the next 10 years and wants to be part of it.
“It will take a long time to get it back. Ten years from now, downtown Brunswick will be great,” he said.
Courtney Prince said it’s exciting to be part of the ongoing renaissance of the city’s historic downtown district and have the opportunity to create new residential and business space downtown.
“We need other people who are as excited as we are,” she said. “It’s going to take a village to bring it back.”
She believes the addition of new living spaces and residents downtown are the key to the downtown area’s success.
“New housing is the key and everything else follows,” she said. “We need other people who are as excited as we are.”
Her father said the entire business community needs to work in a coordinated effort to keep the positive momentum going downtown.
“We’ve all got to pull in the same direction,” he said. “We want to have a living environment that’s fun and vibrant.”
One way to accomplish the goal is to have some businesses target college students and other young people to make downtown Brunswick a destination.
“When you have people live here it changes everything,” he said. “If you want a growth environment, you need young people.”