Developer makes good use of former Brunswick Naval Air station housing

Paul Clark, who with his girlfriend, Cari Peterson, closed on their new home on McKeen  Street in June, said that the price of the former Navy housing offered the couple a chance to stay in Brunswick. He'’s hopeful the homes will allow more younger people and local people to afford homes in Brunswick.
Paul Clark, who with his girlfriend, Cari Peterson, closed on their new home on McKeen Street in June, said that the price of the former Navy housing offered the couple a chance to stay in Brunswick. He'’s hopeful the homes will allow more younger people and local people to afford homes in Brunswick.
Posted Aug. 12, 2012, at 6:16 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 13, 2012, at 10:59 a.m.
Crews from Lewiston-based TW Paving finish curbs on Emanual Street in the McKeen Street housing complex in Brunswick in early August.
Crews from Lewiston-based TW Paving finish curbs on Emanual Street in the McKeen Street housing complex in Brunswick in early August.
Paul Clark, who with his girlfriend, Cari Peterson, closed on their new home on McKeen Street in June, said that the price of the former Navy housing offered the couple a chance to stay in Brunswick. He’'s hopeful the homes will allow more younger people  and local people to afford homes in Brunswick.
Paul Clark, who with his girlfriend, Cari Peterson, closed on their new home on McKeen Street in June, said that the price of the former Navy housing offered the couple a chance to stay in Brunswick. He’'s hopeful the homes will allow more younger people and local people to afford homes in Brunswick.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Paul Clark and his girlfriend, Cari Peterson, didn’t think they could afford to buy a home in Brunswick.

So even though they both work in town, when they decided to upgrade from their apartment they looked elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Clark stood in his new, sunny living room on McKeen Street and glanced out the window at the tree-lined backyard.

In June, Clark and Peterson closed on their four-bedroom home — one of the first of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station housing units to be sold by owner George Schott.

“We thought these might be our one [way] in into Brunswick,” he said. “The day they hit the market, we saw this one and a ranch next door.”

They moved in during the second week in July.

So far, Schott’s company, Affordable Mid-coast Housing, has closed on 15 homes — all on McKeen Street, a much-traveled public road that connects Maine Street and Church Road.

Three more sales are “in the works,” and only one house on McKeen Street remains for sale.

Two weeks ago, Schott began taking deposits on houses on three roads inside the 231-home McKeen Street neighborhood, where road crews continue to work on upgrading water lines and asphalt so the town of Brunswick will accept them as public roadways.

“It’s moving right along,” Schott said Wednesday. “It’s been very interesting and very exciting.”

Duplexes in the neighborhood list at $104,500 for a duplex, and single-family homes, depending on the number of bedrooms, at $139,500 to $154,500.

“They moved so quickly because they’re at the perfect price point,” said David Gleason of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who is listing the homes for Schott. “A very affordable home, and at a price range where the buyers are.”

Most of the new owners are retired or are “younger people just starting out” who have just purchased their first home, he said.

Gleason also sold Jana Profenno her home, a Colonial just up McKeen Street from Clark. She closed on July 17.

“This is perfect,” she said Tuesday, pointing to hardwood floors that line the downstairs.

Profenno, in her 40s, grew up in Freeport and moved back to the area after 16 years away. She works in Portland, and searched for a home there, “but being single, and in the restaurant business, my income didn’t allow me to get what I was looking for,” she said.

Her new house boasts three bedrooms — big enough for her oversized furniture — two baths, and plenty of closet space for her guilty pleasure: 50 to 75 coats and jackets.

When the McKeen Street homes came on the market, Profenno called Gleason, saw the homes the next day, and signed that afternoon.

She already is charmed by the Brunswick farmer’s market, she said, and by her neighbors, who she met before they moved in.

“It’s just such a great place,” she said. “I feel so safe. It’s a cute little town.”

In October 2010, George Schott outbid the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the entity charged with redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, for approximately 700 housing units in various neighborhoods in Brunswick and Topsham.

At the time, town and redevelopment officials raised concerns about how Schott would market the homes, and the impact that strategy would have on the local real estate market.

Clark, a Realtor, said that at weekly staff meetings, his colleagues at Morton Real Estate agree that the addition of the former Navy homes has not affected the housing market because Schott “has been doing it slowly, and keeping them at the appraised value.”

MRRA executive director Steve Levesque concurred.

“We’re pleased they’re moving along with his development plans and integrating the housing units into the community,” Levesque said. “His plan for McKeen Street affordable housing for young families is right in line with the strategy for the housing that was developed” early in the redevelopment process.

What could have been more troublesome, Levesque said, were rental units in the various complexes, but he added that the issue has been addressed and is “water under the bridge” because most of the rental units are occupied.

But Schott said about half of the McKeen Street rental units are occupied — he’s concentrating on roadwork in the other areas of the neighborhood.

And although sailors from the USS Michael Murphy, under construction at Bath Iron Works, moved from Schott’s rental housing in Brunswick on July 1 onto the ship, Schott said he expects new Navy personnel to occupy those units over the next several years as BIW builds four additional ships under contract.

The former Navy housing in Topsham is even more successful, Schott said, with an 80 percent occupancy rate in the rental units.

“Things are going better than I had hoped,” he said.

Increased activity in the neighborhoods is visible, both to passers-by who note moving vans along McKeen Street and to law enforcement officials, who previously expressed concern that large areas of vacant housing could attract vandalism and other crime.

Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo said Tuesday that his officers have noted the housing “seems to be filling up, with a lot more activity in the area and more cars in the driveways … It’s a good thing people are moving in,” Rizzo said.

It’s still too soon for local public schools to see any influx of students as a result of the new sales — or any increase in rentals — Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said, because “most people wait until the last minute.”

But he added that with 253 units of housing, “We think that over time we will probably have the opposite problem.”

Schott said the new homeowners include retirees, single people and young couples — like Clark and Peterson — most of whom meet guidelines for affordable housing.

Few, if any, have children, but Clark said that could change.

A friend of Clark’s sister notified him on Facebook the other day that she’s looking at another home in the complex.

“It seems like some younger people are moving in, which I would love to see,” Clark said. “It’s nice to see younger people and local people be able to buy here.”

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