2018-08-16 / Front Page

The Waters; Contracts signed by hotel developer, restaurant officials

Project on course for city approval
By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


Newly established partners of The Waters project tour the site of the proposed $40 million development, where the two condominium buildings and boat slips will be joined by the second location of Scarborough’s Nonesuch River Brewing and a boutique hotel by Jim Brady. From left, the three partners of Nonesuch River Brewing – chef/owner Jeff Gambardella, builder/ owner Tim Boardman, and brewer/owner Mike Schuler – with Brady. (Abigail Worthing photo) Newly established partners of The Waters project tour the site of the proposed $40 million development, where the two condominium buildings and boat slips will be joined by the second location of Scarborough’s Nonesuch River Brewing and a boutique hotel by Jim Brady. From left, the three partners of Nonesuch River Brewing – chef/owner Jeff Gambardella, builder/ owner Tim Boardman, and brewer/owner Mike Schuler – with Brady. (Abigail Worthing photo) SACO – When the partners of Nonesuch River Brewing heard that Bernie Saulnier was looking for a restaurant for The Waters, a $40 million project on the east side of Saco Island, they wasted no time reaching out.

“I got an email that said, ‘We don’t even want you to meet with anyone else, we’re your guys,’” Saulnier said. “They’re the last piece of the puzzle.”

As The Waters goes into meetings for both planning board and Saco River Corridor Commission approval, it enters with a completed vision for what lies ahead as a trinity of condominiums, a hotel and restaurant.


The complete Waters team is assembled for the first time as they tour the site of the future development on the east side of Saco Island, which will feature condominiums, a boutique hotel and the second location for Nonesuch River Brewing. From left, owner and developer Bernie Saulnier, hotel developer Jim Brady and the three owners of Nonesuch River Brewing, Tim Boardman, Mike Schuler and Jeff Gambardella. (Abigail Worthing photo) The complete Waters team is assembled for the first time as they tour the site of the future development on the east side of Saco Island, which will feature condominiums, a boutique hotel and the second location for Nonesuch River Brewing. From left, owner and developer Bernie Saulnier, hotel developer Jim Brady and the three owners of Nonesuch River Brewing, Tim Boardman, Mike Schuler and Jeff Gambardella. (Abigail Worthing photo) During a meeting Friday, Aug. 10, in Saulnier’s office at 110 Main St., a mill building owned by the developer, the team met to sign contracts and share plans for the property, slated to be completed in summer 2020. At the helm of the project is Saulnier, developer and owner. Saulnier has always planned for a project with two condominium buildings, a boutique hotel, marina and restaurant, and now, with contracts signed, he prepares for presentations with “an excellent team” by his side.

The restaurant will be the second location of Nonesuch River Brewing on Gorham Road in Scarborough, approaching its one-year anniversary at the end of the month, while the hotel will be a new project developed by Jim Brady of CPB2, developer of the Press Hotel in Portland. Negotiations between Saulnier and Brady were finalized last month, whereas the whirlwind discussions with Nonesuch River Brewing concluded Aug. 9.

“I got their email and then took my wife there for dinner and I was sold,” said Saulnier, who lives in Camp Ellis. “They’re doing really great things, with great food and really great beer. They’re the perfect fit for what we’re looking to do here. Within two weeks, it was a done deal.”

Brady purchased the former post office on Washington Street in Biddeford last year and renovated the 114 yearold building into renewed functionality, though it doesn’t currently contain tenants. Brady has been considering building a hotel in the Biddeford/Saco area for some time, inspired by the invigoration of economic development in the area, and said the 50-room hotel will be a “completely new design,” custom for the market.

“We have a unique opportunity here, with people coming from UNE, and with water access. There’s a lot of potential here,” Brady said.

Nonesuch River Brewing co-owners Michael Schuler, Tim Boardman and Jeff Gambardella were all present at the meeting to discuss plans for the new project, which will be tailored to the landscape and clientele for the project.

“We’re looking to do something that will fit the area,” Boardman said. “Something more modern and upscale compared to our current location. We want to work with the great area and make it new.”

The brewery serves an extensive menu that ranges from bar snacks and small plates to sandwiches and entrees. The menu changes seasonally, with Gambardella focusing on what is available locally to fit the cuisine. The brewery also offers eight varieties of beer brewed in house, with a focus on what Schuler refers to as “drinkability,” keeping the beers at a lower alcohol by volume so guests can try multiple varieties in one sitting.

“We want to make a few brews that will be featured exclusively here in Saco, based on what the area wants,” said Schuler, brewer for Nonesuch River Brewing.

Brewing won’t occur at the new location. However, the team is considering ways to embrace the area while staying true to their brand. Gambardella is the head chef at Nonesuch River Brewing,and plans to continue the tradition of seasonality within the menu at the Saco location, as well as incorporate fresh produce and seafood locally like he does in Scarborough.

To incorporate the brand while providing a fresh take in a new location, the team is considering naming the project “NRB at The Waters.”

“Nonesuch River Brewing is indicative of the high quality we provide, so we can to keep the brand in a new way,” Schuler said.

Nonesuch River Brewing began in Schuler’s garage nine years ago. He dreamed of one day having his own brewery. Schuler met Boardman as his son’s coach in hockey, and one night, during an away game, the two enjoyed Shuler’s homebrew and conceived the idea of the brewery.

“Tim said, ‘If you can brew it, I can build it,’” Schuler said. “Then Tim heard from Jeff’s brother that he had just moved up here to Scarborough from San Francisco, where he had had his own restaurants and was now looking for a new project. We all met, had a few beers and the plan was set. We’ve been a team ever since.”

Leaving the boardroom, the team walked through the future site of The Waters and discussed plans to both work with and improve on the layout of the area, with designated areas for the hotel and restaurant pointed out during the walk.

Saulnier and his team recently released results from a public survey conducted through The Waters website and Facebook, which allowed people to indicate their position on the project and provide additional commentary. According to results, 96 voted “Yes, this should be approved,” 14 voted “No, this proposal should be rejected,” and 13 voted “Undecided.” The 53 comments ranged from “Great move for Saco” and “Let’s get this project approved” to “Make it a park” and “Environmental issues need to be considered.”

When asked about community concerns about clear cutting on the property, Saulnier said there are plans to clear and replant more than 300 different types of trees and plants.

“People are so worried that we’re going to take everything down, but really, a lot of the plant life here is just bamboo,” Saulnier said. “We’re working really hard to ensure that we’re enhancing the landscape around the buildings.”

Saulnier also addressed concerns over having a marina in the area, which he said would not offer maintenance or fuel on the slips.

“It will be a place for people to dock their boats, that’s all. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring your boat up the Saco River, dock it here, have a drink and some dinner looking out over the river, and then you could either spend the night in the hotel, or you can go home. We’re not looking to have a full marina, it’ll just be slips,” Saulnier said.

An important part of the plan for The Waters lies in public access to the Saco River, a scarcity in the area. The property will have a soft launch to allow for kayaks and canoes to enter and exit the river smoothly, and a continuation of the RiverWalk. According to Saulnier, “the sky’s the limit” as to plans for this portion of the waterfront, speculating about possibilities that range from kayak rentals to dinner cruises. As Saulnier guided the team through the property, he paused for a moment at edge of the 5.8-acre waterfront property.

“This view that has been hidden for so long,” Saulnier said to the team. “It’s about time this was all opened up, don’t you think?”

As the team walked, they spoke of their hopes for Saco and the excitement the project will bring.

“This has all been a long time coming,” Brady said. “The growth in Portland is pushing people down to this area and Biddeford has been benefiting. This will be a big opportunity now for Saco.”

The Waters is on the east side of the Saco River and will neighbor Run of the Mill and other area breweries. Mark Robinson, spokesman for the project, addressed concerns in an email on Aug. 9.

“This will vault downtown Biddeford/ Saco into the micro-brew tour industry,” Robinson wrote. “New visitors will be coming to downtown Biddeford/Saco, guaranteed.”

“We’re going to be catering to a different market than other breweries,” said Schuler. “This area has such great walkability, especially once the RiverWalk is completed. That’s one of my favorite things about this area, you’ll be able to walk everywhere. People will be able to have a few beers here with dinner, and then walk over to the other neighboring areas.”

Project officials will meet with the Saco River Corridor Commission in Dayton Wednesday, Aug. 22, this time with Brady on board officially as the hotel developer to present plans that are desired by the commission to gain approval for the project. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, The Waters will host a site walk for the planning board, immediately followed by sketch plan review. If the project gains required approvals on both fronts, it will break ground in fall to begin with the planned landscape overhaul and seawall construction.

“If all goes according to plan, by summer 2020 we’ll all be outside having a drink at the restaurant,” Saulnier said.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.


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