2013-04-05 / Front Page

TOWER TAKEOVER


Navy transfers former flight control center
BY JT LEONARD Times Record Staff


JT LEONARD / THE TIMES RECORD JT LEONARD / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

Now that they have it, aside from marveling at the view it provides, what does Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority do with it?

Building 200 at Brunswick Executive Airport, also known as the Old Control Tower, officially became MRRA’s property last week, after the U.S. Navy issued its Finding of Suitability to Transfer order.

Built in 1954, the 23,000-squarefoot “pillbox” building once was the observational and operational nerve center of the largest maritime antisubmarine warfare patrol squadron in the northeastern United States.

The tower is no longer used to direct air traffic; BXM, like most municipal and private airports, is an “uncontrolled” field. There are no air traffic controllers. Rather, pilots themselves are responsible for communicating their positions and intentions to each other to avoid collisions.

Dark blue sun shades screen the brutal glare through inward-sloping glass panels in the tower's observation deck. The northerly view overlooks both runways, the “Bowdoin Skyline” of Cole Tower and the New Control Tower built by the Navy in 2001.

Steve Levesque, MRRA's executive director, has suggested that the agency eventually would relocate its offices from the cavernous rabbit warren of Hangar Six to the Old Tower; the former control building would be a more visible and prestigious location for hosting potential tenants, helping to provide MRRA with more of an identity.

Still, such a move is unlikely to occur in the near future: The Old Tower needs extensive renovation to make it worthy of occupancy, including electrical, heating and efficiency upgrades to bring it up to municipal code, as well as modifications to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal grants are available that will help with the renovations and the U.S. Navy has committed to paying for some, but not all, of the building’s needed rehabilitation.

Although the time frame is uncertain, MRRA also is due to receive ownership of the New Tower, which is about 50 feet taller than the Old Tower. Both facilities are likely to be available for lease to interested commercial tenants.

However, exactly which executive director's office will occupy the observation and control room remains open to speculation.

jtleonard@timesrecord.com

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