Freeport Village Station shopping center, seen Feb. 26, is now under the management of The Wilder Co., which hopes to add restaurants, breweries and green space to the downtown complex. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The owners of Freeport Village Station have hired a Boston-based real estate management group to oversee the large downtown shopping center in a move that town officials hope will help usher in a new, brighter era for the beleaguered plaza – one that includes more restaurants.

The private investors who have been behind the complex since its inception chose to hire The Wilder Co. to handle leases and maintain the property instead of selling the center to another developer.  

The investors, Freeport Village Station Capital LLC, had previously sold the property to a different Boston-based developer, Berenson Associates, that breached its mortgage and prompted the investors to buy it for $20 million at a foreclosure auction.

Tom Wilder, a principal for the new management company, said The Wilder Co. seeks to take retail-based centers that either have too much retail or not the right retail and transform them into neighborhoods – and Freeport Village Station presents a unique mix of the two. 

“(The plaza) has become disconnected from the community and from Main Street,” he said. 

Compared to the neighboring L.L.Bean flagship campus, which “does a fabulous job with everything they do,” Freeport Village Station is a hard sell, Wilder said.


“There’s nothing truly enticing to see there,” he said. “The center has been tired for a few years.” 

Wilder envisions more food and beverage opportunities, including with outdoor dining, “relevant retail,” and more open and green space. 

But he stressed that they’re not looking to come in and do an immediate overhaul. There’s some deferred maintenance that needs to be taken care of, but the group plans to talk with community leaders about “what they really want this to be for the next generation,” he said. “If you’re not listening to the community you’re bound to make mistakes.” 

Freeport Village Station, which in many ways is the center of Freeport’s downtown, is included in the town’s Downtown Freeport tax increment financing district.

Village Station and other parcels in the district have collectively generated an increased assessed tax value of roughly $84 million  as of fiscal year 2024, according to Brett Richardson, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corporation.

This money has supported credit enhancements that enabled the construction of the Village Station, including its now-shuttered Nordica Theatre and its 500-space parking garage, as well as the expansion of L.L.Bean facilities, Richardson said. The money also supported the creation of a new library and improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks.


The district expires in 2026. The sale of the property has no impact on the TIF district.


When Freeport Village Station opened in May 2009, it was welcomed with open arms; officials hailed it as a project that “defied economic odds” as the Great Recession worsened. But the explosion of online shopping has dramatically changed the retail landscape in the intervening years and the retail mecca has waned in popularity. The shopping center is about 73% full.

The auction was expected to draw significant interest from bidders, but ultimately, there was only one other offer – for $5 million, not even one-sixth of the assessed $32.5 million value.

“It’s increasingly difficult for brick-and-mortar retail to compete given that Amazon has landed on our Main Streets,” said Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and a former Freeport town councilor. “It’s not surprising that we’d have more buildings that are meant for stores than our (population) can support … but Freeport has been thinking about this for a long time.”

Freeport’s downtown is in the middle of a rebirth. Town officials are trying to reshape the outlet-centered Main Street into a bustling hub, complete with walkable streets, local shops, nightlife, an arts scene and ample housing.


Mike Carey, an auctioneer for Tranzon, discusses the terms of sale for a block of downtown Freeport before starting the bidding process at the former Nordica Theatre on March 6. The winning bid, $20 million, was from Adam Shub, a partner at PretiFlaherty representing Freeport Village Station Capital LLC. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Consultants have pointed to Freeport Village Station as a sort of “catalyst site.”

One consultant said previously that the center could be reconfigured as a collection of restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating. That might get the attention of a developer who wants to look into Freeport for apartment buildings. If a restaurateur sees housing going in, they might decide it’s worth it to open in Freeport. But without one of those things, another might not happen, the consultant said. 

Wilder has experience with the kind of revitalization that Freeport hopes to accomplish. The company oversaw the redevelopment of Arsenal Yards, a massive Massachusetts mixed-use development. The former mall now includes 250,000 square feet of retail, 300 apartments, a 150-room hotel and 400,000 square feet of lab and office space. 

The project serves as a sort of case study, Wilder said. Freeport Village Station is too small for the same level of redevelopment, but it has the same kind of untapped potential.

The Wilder Co. has just one other Maine property in its portfolio – a Kittery outlet center.

Housing remains both a cornerstone and a hurdle for downtown Freeport’s revitalization plans.


Wilder said housing isn’t off the table for Freeport Village Station – they want it to be a neighborhood – but it’s a tight space and much of it sits atop a parking garage.

“We’d like to explore it,” he said. “Whether it’s us or adjacent to us, we want we want to be part of that discussion.” 

Mary Davis, president of the Freeport Economic Development Corporation, said the town has been encouraged by Wilder’s involvement so far and that it sees the sale as an opportunity to move the downtown vision project forward.

“We see it as being a positive support of where Freeport is going and we’re excited to have someone who is going to invest,” she said.

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