BANGOR, Maine — Having passed one of its last significant hurdles, Penobscot Community Health Care hopes to begin construction on its expansion of Hope House in the coming months, according to the agency’s CEO.
“We expect to go out to competitive contractor bidding in late fall,” Ken Schmidt said in an email Wednesday evening. “The work will commence as soon as the contractor is ready — this winter or at latest next spring. The construction duration will be approximately nine months.”
Bangor’s planning board gave Penobscot Community Health Care the go-ahead to pursue its 7,000-square-foot expansion to its Indiana Avenue facility during a meeting Tuesday night.
Hope House provides emergency food and shelter to alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as on-site medical care, mental health services, housing support and social service case management.
The project involves building a connection between the two existing buildings at the site, which will add 24 transitional housing units. The expansion will double the facility’s number of units, from 24 to 48.
“By providing transitional housing, we help homeless people get off the streets and on their feet,” Schmidt wrote. “While our focus is providing high quality health care for 70,000 people, it seems a worthy goal for [ Penobscot Community Health Care] to do its part and also assist the most vulnerable among us.”
The expansion proposal drew the ire of some Bangor residents last year. Initial efforts to change zoning rules to allow transitional housing failed in the planning board and were delayed by City Council votes in 2012. The neighbors worried that the growth of the facility would mean a growth in the number of Hope House residents cutting across their property or littering in the woods. Some residents also were concerned about the number of registered sex offenders staying at Hope House.
Some city councilors were even bothered by the potential capacity increase for similar reasons.
Councilor James Gallant said during a meeting in September 2012, holding up a handful of news articles regarding crimes committed by Hope House residents and transients, that “every bed that [Hope House] provides is another problem that comes to Bangor.”
Penobscot Community Health Care later regrouped and made several concessions earlier this year in its lease with the city.
The agency agreed to maintain its current bed count by removing 24 beds from its emergency shelter after the 24 transitional housing units are added; limit the number of registered sex offenders living at the facility to seven; and spend a minimum of $5,000 to help the University of Maine at Augusta Bangor campus complete repairs to a fence on the Union Street side of the campus.
“We welcomed the valuable input from city councilors and city managers, and our neighbors,” Schmidt wrote. “We believe the project is even better because of their ideas and the substantial subsequent changes we made.”
The expansion is funded through a $1.8 million grant from MaineHousing, a $330,000 forgivable loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, a $50,000 award from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, and some additional foundation grants and private donations, according to Penobscot Community Health Care. It is anticipated that the total project cost will be $2.4 to $2.5 million.