Environmental testing delays housing project

Posted May 26, 2009, at 11:57 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:18 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Due originally to start in April, construction at the former Lake Mall site of a $4.07 million, 24-unit senior housing complex likely will begin in July, town Economic Development Director Ruth Birtz said Tuesday.

Especially stringent environmental testing requirements, including soil sampling, caused the delay, Birtz said. That work is ongoing.

“Given that it’s senior citizen housing, they [state officials] really hold these places to the highest standards,” Birtz said. “They hope to go out to bid next month and start work a month after that.”

Called Lakeview Senior Housing, the building at Main Street and West Broadway will be about 15,000 square feet. It will be operated by the social service agency Penquis of Bangor. Officials at Penquis familiar with the project did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

Lincoln had helped Penquis secure a Housing Assistance Grant for $250,000 through the federal Community Development Block Grant program and is helping the organization with a tax increment financing deal, or TIF. The Town Council voted 7-0 to support those initiatives in September.

Tax increment financing is among the state’s leading tools for aiding economic development. When a town realizes an increase in valuation created by an investment, it also experiences a reduction in its share of state revenues and an increase in county taxes. A TIF allows a town to “shelter” the new valuation from the calculations of state revenue sharing, education subsidy and county tax assessment, in effect creating more money for the town, usually over 20 years.

The Penquis TIF, Birtz has said, will allow the agency to use the sheltered valuation funds to lower the rent charged to seniors and make it affordable for them.

The building will fill a space left by the last of eight Main Street properties devastated by arson in late 2002.

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