August 6, 2021

Windham Planning Board approves site plan for South Windham Fire Station redevelopment


By Ed Pierce

The Windham Planning Board approved a site plan and 
zoning application for a new 118-seat restaurant and brewery
as part of a redevelopment plan by Great Falls Construction
for the old South Windham Fire Station at 8 Main St. in
South Windham during a meeting on July 26.
Members of Windham’s Planning Board voted unanimously at a July 26 meeting to approve a site plan and zoning application by a Gorham developer for the old South Windham Fire Station at 8 Main. St. in South Windham and the project to remodel the building and convert it into a new brew house and restaurant is moving forward.

Great Falls Construction of Gorham, owned by Jon and Cindy Smith, purchased the 3,833-square-foot former Windham fire station in December 2020 for $125,000 from the town and intend to redevelop the structure into a 118-seat restaurant with 58 interior seats and 60 exterior seats.

Civil Engineer Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics gave the planning board an overview of the project during the meeting and joined developer Jon Smith in answering questions about proposed parking and noise reduction issues for the new restaurant.

McCullough said that the redevelopment plan calls for the removal of the old fire station bay doors and replaced with glass doors, putting in new curbing in front of the building, taking out the pavement in front of the bays and creating a brick patio there. The sidewalk in front of the restaurant would be separated from the patio by a partition.

“The footprint of the fire station will stay intact though,” McCullough said.

According to McCullough, Great Falls also intends to clear and remove invasive vegetation behind the building and rework the landscaping along the river with native plants.

In its initial presentation to the Windham Town Council last December regarding the project, Great Falls representatives said that the new restaurant and brewery will be the cornerstone for the economic revitalization of South Windham.

“We see this property as the ideal place for families to enjoy dining and gathering while riverside and are confident in a craft brewery/restaurant’s ability to provide local skilled labor and stimulate the surrounding village’s economy to best prepare it for future vibrancy,” Great Falls representatives said at the time. “This unique property located along the river creates a pleasing spot and lends itself perfectly for a nice afternoon out to lunch or dinner with family and friends. Our intention is to create a vibrant commercial property that will anchor and stimulate the development of the South Windham Village as it continues to improve as a community orientated, walkable place to gather.”

Most planning board members expressed concern over a lack of direct parking for the restaurant and how it will affect nearby neighborhoods and residences along Route 202 (Main Street). They also asked if the restaurant planned on having live music outside and if there was a plan to reduce the amount of noise that would generate in the area.  

Smith and McCullough said that although there were a handful of direct parking spaces on Main Street in front of the fire station and a few others planned on the side of the building, visitors to the restaurant could use an available satellite parking lot about 1,000 feet north of the business in public parking near the Cumberland County Soil and Conservation District building on Maine Street. That would mean that patrons using that lot would have to walk down the available sidewalks to reach the restaurant and a need for the town to keep the sidewalks cleared during winter storms. 

Regarding potential noise from outdoor music, Smith said that Great Falls can limit the time and level of noise from music into a lease between the developer and the restaurant/brewery operator.

Marge Govoni, a planning board member, questioned why the developer only was planning one handicap parking space for the direct parking proposal and McCullough and Smith agreed to reduce streetside parking to three spaces and add an additional handicap space along the street along with a handicap space in the parking lot on the side of the building

Prior to being decommissioned in 2017, the single-story South Windham Fire Station was one of four fire stations within the Windham Fire-Rescue Department. The original South Windham Fire Department was founded in 1913 and consisted of a house for storing fire hose near what is now the Little Falls Landing Retirement community. A functional hydrant system for firefighters was created using water pumped from Sebago Lake.

By 1934, the South Windham hose house had been upgraded to a larger dedicated fire house using bricks supplied by the men’s reformatory on River Road in Windham and labor from the U.S. government’s Works Progress Administration. Two years later, in 1936, that structure was heavily damaged by a fire and was reconstructed. In 1966, Windham built the four-bay regional fire station that it shared with Gorham for almost five decades before being deemed too small and unsuitable for expansion.

Great Falls Construction has previously completed four different projects for the town of Windham and is currently performing 15,247-square-foot renovation of the Windham Public Safety Building at 374 Gray Road, including the creation of joint space for both the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Department. <

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