LINCOLN, Maine — The new Lakeview Senior Housing complex won’t be accepting tenants for another month, but 81-year-old Jennie Leighton already has a pretty good idea how she would live if she moved into it.
“If I were a senior citizen here, I would love to sit here and watch people go by,” Leighton said as she and three friends sat eating lunch in a meeting room on the first floor, “and I would listen to the music that people play at the [town] gazebo.”
Leighton and her friends wondered how some seniors would manage getting to their cars in the parking lot across Main Street, but said that those who walk well could shop for food at Steaks ’N Stuff, get prescriptions at Rite Aid, eat at three restaurants, read at the Lincoln Memorial Library, shop at Marden’s or take in some sun on the Mattanawcook Lake pier. All are within walking distance.
“If and when I need to let go of my home, I would consider moving here,” said Louise Sinclair, 73, of Lincoln. “This is a really nice place.”
With construction finished after 12 months, Penquis of Bangor held tours and a completion ceremony at the three-story, $3.7 million building at 20 Main St. on Thursday. More than 100 people attended. Besides aiding the town’s low-income senior citizen population, the 24-apartment project fills the last of several holes created by arson fires that wiped out much of downtown about eight years ago.
Town officials have said the housing project and the downtown revitalization that occurred with it represent the most complex and largest construction effort they ever have attempted. Several properties were razed and acquired, and new sidewalks, streetlights, edifices and parking lots were erected, including the Lee A. Rush Memorial Gazebo and the lakeside walkway.
Penquis Chief Executive Officer Stephen B. Mooers, who helped design the building, said one of the project’s biggest strengths is how well it complements its surroundings with its two-faced clock tower, walkways, benches and handsome design.
“We build with no stigma,” Mooers said during the ceremony. “You drive by here and you would never know it was a place for low-income seniors.”
Funded almost entirely by the stimulus act, the property features one- and two-bedroom apartments, on-site laundry, community spaces and sitting rooms, free Internet access and rents that cover heat, domestic hot water and sewer access. The Lynx Transportation service is available for eligible seniors upon request.
The place didn’t meet with universal acclaim. Ruth Hatch, an individual support coordinator with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said she could not believe that the building lacked central air service.
“I find it unconscionable that a brand-new state-of-the-art building would not have that, especially when we have had 90-degree weather,” Hatch said. “It also seems it does not fit my clientele, which is too bad. I would have liked to have gotten some of my clients in here.”
Her clients, she said, would not be able to pay 50 to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income, which the building requires, without some kind of Section 8 housing subsidy.
Mooers doubted that any low-income seniors would be unable to qualify to live at Lakeview.
“Folks making $8,000 or $9,000 a year are our target,” he said.
Mooers said that central air conditioning would have been nice to have, but was an amenity that the project could not afford — and rarely would need. The rooms come with several overhead fans and residents who need them can install air conditioner units, he said.