|By Mark Peters, Portland Press Herald,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 9, 2006 - SCARBOROUGH -- Owners of a historic resort in one of Maine's most exclusive summer communities want to downsize the inn and sell off some of its prime waterfront real estate.
The Black Point Inn recently filed plans with the town to eliminate almost 60 rooms. Two sections of the main inn, several of its outbuildings and an oceanfront pool would be demolished.
By shrinking the resort's size, its owners, BPI Partners LLC, can create new housing lots and convert a former barn into condominiums. The plan could put a total of 15 housing units on the market.
Each half-acre lot, in a neighborhood that includes the one-time studio of painter Winslow Homer and the Maine retreat of actress Glenn Close, could start at $1 million.
Few homes become available on Prouts Neck, since many of the summer residences get passed down from one generation to another, said Sandra Murray, owner of All Points Realtors in Scarborough.
"All the more reason the demand would be high," she said.
BPI Partners still needs local approval to move forward, and its members have not finalized how the lots would be sold.
The inn has a national reputation as a top resort that draws conferences and travelers willing to pay $480 a night for a room in the summer.
The resort is owned by more than three dozens members of the Prouts Neck community, creating the unique ownership group of BPI Partners.
BPI Partners' plan calls for a smaller, more intimate inn. The number of rooms would drop from 84 to 25, and the restaurant would have less seating.
The partnership, which closed on the property earlier this year, wants to get a better return on its investment and reduce traffic and other nuisances, said Bob Gould, a leader of the owners' group. At the same time, he said, members don't want to close the resort after more than a century of operation.
Their proposal tries to balance these goals.
"The best parts of it will still be there," said Gould, a Massachusetts resident whose family has owned property on Prouts Neck since the early 1900s.
The ownership group is scheduled to discuss the plan next week in its first appearance before the town's Planning Board.
Town Manager Ron Owens said the plan likely has support among Prouts Neck residents since many of them are part of the inn's ownership. But it should become clear during the approval process whether broad agreement exists in the summer community, he added.
The plan would have to get several approvals because it involves an inn, a three-unit condo project and a housing subdivision. The Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board both would vote on sections of the plan, Assistant Town Planner Dan Bacon said.
The inn opened in 1878, but the wings BPI wants to demolish were built in the 1950s and in the last decade.
The zone allows for single family homes on half-acre lots. But the boards will have to work out space requirements for the downsized inn before determining the number of allowable housing lots, Bacon said.
Luxury inns have outperformed other sectors of the tourism market in recent years, so the inn likely would have continued to see growth under its current configuration, said Vaughn Stinson, chief executive officer of the Maine Tourism Association.
But he said the unique ownership arrangement is likely pushing BPI Partners toward the smaller, more imitate set-up.
A smaller Black Point Inn would be a major change in Maine's luxury resort market, said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association.
"I do believe it is a loss. But as I said, that's their property."
Nationally, converting hotels and resorts into residential properties is becoming a popular practice. Dugal said the land often is more valuable than the business itself.
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