Ex-BTS dorm to become senior housing

Posted May 24, 2010, at 11:08 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors have agreed to alter Bangor’s property tax structure to allow for the rehabilitation of a former Bangor Theological Seminary dormitory building into low-income housing for elderly residents.

Community Housing of Maine, a Portland-based nonprofit developer, recently requested a tax deferment from the city of Bangor, according to development director Erin Cooperrider. Plans are to convert Maine Hall, between Hammond and Union streets, into 16 efficiency apartments and 12 one-bedroom units, ranging from 300 to 520 square feet. The apartments would be offered to those over age 55 whose household income is below 60 percent of area median income.

The current tax assessment of the building is $385,800, which would yield $7,349 in property taxes. Once renovations are complete, the value is estimated to increase to $1.6 million. The property tax would then become $30,524.

Cooperrider, however, said that to break even, anything in excess of $15,000 in annual property taxes would be too crippling. The city agreed to allow Community Housing of Maine to pay its full tax bill, but all but $15,000 of that would be returned.

“We’ve done this before, most recently with another senior housing project on Harlow Street,” Rod McKay said. “It’s unfortunate that the [economic] climate makes it such that we have to subsidize this way.”

Since the city has never collected property taxes on Maine Hall, any amount of new taxes is welcome, according to McKay.

Nearly three years ago, Seminary Redevelopment LLC, a development company formed by Paul Cook of Bangor and Kenneth Ray of Portland, bought the entire 9.25-acre former Bangor Theological Seminary. Since then, pieces of the property have been sold off for reuse. Last year, the Bangor Masonic Foundation bought three connected buildings on the old campus and the Bangor Public Library bought the former seminary library to use for storage.

Last April, city councilors approved a zone change request by Community Housing of Maine to accommodate the development project. Maine Hall is a 20,000-square-foot, four-story building built in 1834 — the same year Bangor was incorporated as a city. Renovations include the replacement of 124 windows, adding an ele-vator, and an addition that would house a community room.

The project will be funded through private investments and a combination of tax credits, including historic preservation tax credits. Cooperrider said the project is about 90 percent planned at this point, but there is no set schedule for completion.

“We have every intention of preserving the historic character of the building,” Cooperrider said.

When it is completed, the Togus VA Medical Center, Eastern Area Agency on Aging and Acadia Hospital all will provide referrals and support services to tenants.

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