A 2012 aerial view of Falmouth’s Route 1 business district shows the recently sold shopping plaza, anchored by Shaw’s, middle left. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Two Portland developers are behind the purchase of a Falmouth strip mall primed for redevelopment.

Joseph Soley, the patriarch of a Portland real estate empire, and Jonathan Cohen, grandson of the founder of Portland Glass, bought the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1 in March, according to a mortgage filed with the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. The strip mall, which has had vacant storefronts for years, sold for $21 million, according to NKF Capital Markets, the firm that orchestrated the sale.

On the mortgage, Soley is listed as the sole member of 122 PTIP LLC and Cohen is named the manager of 20 Thames Street LLC. The two companies each own half of the property, according to a deed signed March 23.

Attempts to reach Soley were not successful Thursday. Cohen did not respond to an interview request to discuss future plans for the property.

The shopping mall has struggled to find tenants, but filled two large storefronts with new businesses last year. There is unrealized development potential at the site, said Craig Young, a partner at CBRE | The Boulos Co. in Portland. Young had a competing bid on the property.

“It is a gold mine. There is a lot of opportunity there,” he said. The mall can be redeveloped for more office, retail and restaurant space, but the untapped value is in about 20 acres of undeveloped land on Route 1 included in the roughly 60-acre property, Young said.

“That land is going to be ideal for anything from hotels, medical offices, office space and housing on the back,” he said. “There is a lot of value there. A lot of value.”

The 203,637-square-foot mall is anchored by a Shaw’s supermarket. Sullivan Tire and Goodwill Industries are other major tenants. Discount department store Ocean State Job Lot and a Planet Fitness gym moved into two long-vacant spaces last October.

Falmouth’s business district occupies a long stretch of Route 1, pictured here in the summer of 2012. Companies owned by Joseph Soley and by Jonathan Cohen, both Portland developers, purchased the shopping plaza in the lower left quadrant for $21 million. Staff photo by Gabe Souza

The new owners are advertising leases on four vacant retail spaces ranging from 4,000 square feet to 6,020 square feet, according to a brochure from Compass Commercial Brokers, a Portland firm. The center is marketed as “strategically situated” in one of the most affluent towns in Maine and on Route 1, a commercial corridor that sees 15,400 vehicles a day. Compass did not return a request Thursday for more information about the property.

Falmouth has invested in utility infrastructure and has changed zoning along Route 1 since 2010 to encourage a village district with retail, offices and dining, said Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth director of economic development. Town officials regarded Falmouth Shopping Center, and its oversized, underused parking lot, as a prime area for that type of redevelopment.

“It is a great property. We always felt the property was underutilized,” he said. JPA Management, the previous owner, was not focused on development, he said.

Undeveloped acreage around the mall is in a zone designated for office space, but that could change if the town was presented with an appropriate development master plan, Holtwijk said.

“If someone came up with a plan and the council liked it, they could make the zoning accommodation to further the plan,” he said.

Soley, who bought buildings in the Old Port and the People’s United Bank building in Monument Square downtown, has had numerous run-ins with city officials and tenants about safety code violations at his properties. His sons, Tim and Jack, are prominent Portland developers, and his grandson, Josh Soley, is involved in a recent real estate deal in the Bayside neighborhood.

Cohen is president of Architectural Doors and Windows in Westbrook and son of Gene Cohen, former CEO of Portland Glass, which was founded by his father, Sam. Jonathan Cohen is currently building the new headquarters for payment-processing company Wex Inc. on 48,000 square feet of waterfront land he bought from Portland for $3.3 million in August 2017.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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