Despite the recent closure of the local paper mill, Bucksport is welcoming a crop of new residents. FILE PHOTO

Bucksport enjoying growth spurt of new residents

BUCKSPORT — Kathy Downes has worked as the town clerk for Bucksport for the past 25 years, but she’s seen a lot of new faces recently.

“I used to know everybody,” said Downes, who meets residents in the town office whenever they need to register a motor vehicle, buy a game license or register for voting. “Now it’s getting to be less and less of that.”

That’s because Bucksport is experiencing a growth spurt of new residents, many of whom are attracted by the town’s burgeoning Main Street business scene, by its close proximity to Belfast, Bangor and Ellsworth and by the town’s relatively low real estate prices.

“This will be the best year I’ve had since 2003,” said Mark Eastman, a broker and the owner of Ocean’s Edge Realty, LLC. The year 2003 was Eastman’s first working in Bucksport. Ocean’s Edge has had 55 residential sales so far this year, whereas last year it had 28. Kathy Coogan, a broker and co-owner of Two Rivers Realty, LLC, had 72 residential sales in Bucksport this year, whereas she had just 52 last year.

“We’ve sold properties in Bucksport to people from Florida to the Carolinas,” said Coogan, who said that many of the buyers were older residents, though not all were retired. Eastman noted that he had a mix of both older and younger buyers.

“These aren’t just seasonal,” Coogan added, about the incoming residents. “These are full-time from New York, Tennessee, Oklahoma.”

Other towns also are experiencing a surge in new residents, partly because of low interest rates and a housing market that seems to be recovering from the 2008 housing market crash.

“I think the feds are going to keep the interest rates low forever,” said Carl Lusby, an associate broker at Sargent Real Estate in Ellsworth. Lusby reported a strong housing market in the city.

“Great for people who want to buy homes,” he said.

“I just put four properties under contract this morning,” said Michelle Ridley, a broker in Belfast who works with Better Homes and Gardens. Ridley said that houses in Belfast rarely sit on the market for more than a few days before someone purchases them.

“This is a come back year,” she said. “For everybody.”

Richard Rotella, Bucksport’s community and economic development director, said the primary reason people are attracted to Bucksport is because of its proximity to larger cities. The town has taken up the moniker “Center of the Known Universe” because it is about a 20-to-30-minute drive from Ellsworth, Bangor and Belfast.

“People will think of this more as a bedroom community,” Rotella said. “Maybe a spouse works in Belfast and the other in Ellsworth, so they meet halfway in between.”

The growth spurt is a sign of success for Bucksport after the Verso Paper mill closed in 2014. About 500 people lost their jobs, and 40 percent of the town’s tax base was eliminated. But Rotella said that the closure might have been a blessing in disguise.

“Property values will climb as the mill comes down,” he said. “People didn’t like that ugly thing at the end of the street.”

The mill closing also forced Bucksport to tap into promoting other resources, such as its picturesque waterfront and thriving arts community with weekly Wednesday on Main events, held on Main Street during the summer. A tapas bar, a gift shop and a soon-to-open arts center also cropped up in the past year. Rotella noted that there is only one vacant commercial property left on Main Street.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Coogan, from Two Rivers Realty. “I think it’s a surprise to see this much energy this soon.”

That energy was part of what attracted Ron DeFilippo and his wife, Paula, from Long Island, N.Y., to Bucksport. The 65-year-old DeFilippo trains salespeople for General Motors, but now that the couple’s kids have left the house, they are looking for a place to eventually retire.

“We like living close to the water,” said DeFilippo, who also looked at Bangor, Belfast and Blue Hill. “I want to do some fishing.”

DeFilippo found that a two-bedroom, two-story house in Belfast cost about $150,000 while a similar house in Bucksport cost about $115,000. But the price wasn’t all the town had to offer.

“The character and charm in Bucksport is so much nicer than in Bangor,” said DeFilippo, who enjoyed the waterfront walkway and a delicious seafood dinner at the Harbor View Grille until his 14-year-old Labrador-pointer Daisy got sick. The DeFilippos took Daisy to the Bucksport Animal Hospital, where she was given medicine and her owners were charged $90.

“Back home it would have been $300,” DeFilippo said. “The vet was wonderful. This is the kind of town I would like to retire in.”

David Roza

David Roza

Former reporter, David Roza grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and covered news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.

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