For 178 years, the identity of Thomaston, Maine was linked to a maximum-security prison sitting on 15 acres adjacent to the village center. Due to overcrowding, the age of the facility, and lack of room for expansion, the prison was decommissioned by the state in 2001, and demolished in 2002 following a lobbying effort organized by local community leaders. The transformation of the downtown prison site to a large grassy field immediately stimulated economic growth as property values rose in this historically and culturally rich village of 4,000 residents and cleared the way for the town to buy the former prison land from the state. The former prison site now anchors a multi-use redevelopment plan designed to enhance the village center and surrounding neighborhoods and encourage economic growth compatible with the town’s history and vision of its future.
PRISON: Maine State Prison
FORMER LOCATION: 392 Main St Thomaston, ME 04861
WHEN BUILT: 1824, rebuilt in 1851, and again in 1923
PROPERTY HISTORY: Maximum-security state prison including prisoner product showroom and retail space; Closed and buildings demolished in 2002 with the exception of a memorial wall and the Maine State Showroom and retail space which is still on Route 1 in Thomaston
MOST RECENT USE OF PROPERTY: Public green
INTENDED REUSE: Mixed Use/Community including residential units, commercial, retail, a town park and non-profit community health and wellness center
OWNERS/DEVELOPERS/PLANNERS: State of Maine; Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.; Thomaston Community Association; Thomaston Redevelopment Committee; Developers Collaborative; MLRD Landscape Architecture and New Urbanism; Eaton Peabody Consulting Group; Town of Thomaston
FINANCING: State of Maine (demolition and environmental remediation – $4 million); Town of Thomaston (purchased 16 acres of the prison land – $285,000); Riverfront Community Development Bond (master planning and implementation of the public green $500,000) The voters approved a TIF (tax increment financing) district to finance infrastructure on the site.
PROJECTED COMPLETION DATE: Ongoing
STATUS AS OF FEBRUARY 2013: State hired consultant to investigate possible prison re-use scenarios and held an initial public meeting in 1999 to solicit ideas from the community for consideration by its consultant. Thomaston Community Association formed to survey the community’s sentiments about the options presented by the consultant; Recommendation to demolish the prison was made by the Comprehensive Plan Committee and supported by the Town. State demolished prison and remediated site for environmental hazards in 2002; Town purchased the prison property from the state in 2005; Master plan for site, Thomaston Green, developed by several consulting firms in collaboration with the Town and community. In 2007, voters approved zoning for the new Thomaston Green district as well as the Master Plan for the district. Landscaping, including trees, walking trails, and informational signs about the former prison site and the riverfront ecology, was completed in 2010. The voters approved a TIF (tax increment financing) district in 2010 to finance infrastructure on the site. In 2012 voters authorized Town to approve building of new roads, sewer and water into the site; to sell 6 of the 8 lots for commercial and residential development; and to donate 1 lot to the YWCA for $1. The final lot is reserved for the town park, roads and parking.