February 4, 2013

Cumberland Farms renovations evidence of Gerald Hotel project's economic boost

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — The renovation workforce at the former Gerald Hotel is part of the reason for an expansion at the nearby Cumberland Farms, where the manager said a new coffee area was being installed Monday.

click image to enlarge

Workers with Gorman Construction carry a food case through the storefront windows which were removed at Cumberland Farms in Fairfield, on Monday. The store is expanding and offering a larger coffee and sandwich counter.

Staff photo by David Leaming

The expansion is the latest positive sign of development in Fairfield, where economic growth proponents say a $6.4 million project to convert the hotel into 28 residential units for low-income seniors is creating a positive ripple effect.

The workforce at the hotel, headed by Sheridan Construction, also is continuing to grow, said site supervisor Homer Salisbury.

In early December, there were eight Sheridan employees doing preliminary demolition work at the site. On Monday, Salisbury said, 29 people were working, including nine from other companies.

“Each week that goes by, as we open up a little more space, we’ll have more people working here,” he said. “Within the next three weeks, we should be increasing another 10 or 15 people.”

Salisbury said many of the workers were buying food and other items from local stores.

“A lot of us are too lazy to pack a lunch,” he said.

 Cumberland Farms Manager Al Jolicoeur said sales are rising. 

“Because of all the new people in the area, coffee sales are increasing,” Jolicoeur said. “Our coffee area was getting jammed up in the mornings.”

Jolicoeur said the store sells about 2,500 cups of coffee a month, which is up 20 percent from last year.

Also on Monday, workers removed two plate glass windows in the store to bring in a new sandwich case. 

Jolicoeur said that the store will also take advantage of a Community Development Building Grant that Fairfield successfully applied for, which leverages matching federal money for any improvements to Main Street business fronts.

The $7,000 coffee area expansion is an example of the “multiplier effect,” which economists say happens when a dollar spent on development generates additional dollars of economic activity in the area, according to Darryl Sterling, director, Central Maine Growth Council.

For every dollar spent on a downtown project like the hotel renovation, Sterling said, four to five dollars in additional economic activity is expected.

“That whole block is going to be rehabilitated,” he said. “That’s going to spur additional activities at adjacent properties.” 

Sterling said some portion of worker paychecks are spent in the area. In addition, he said he has seen a flurry of interest in investing in other buildings in the downtown area, though he declined to release details at this time. 

Another benefit will be seen when the project is complete and the hotel becomes home to 28 people, Sterling said, which will increase the residential density of Fairfield’s downtown.

Sterling said that central Maine as a whole is being helped by a series of large projects, including the construction of MaineGeneral’s Alfond Center for Health in Augusta, the renovations and improvements at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport in Waterville and the grant-fueled workforce expansion of Orion Ropeworks in Winslow. 

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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