Brewer OKs tax break for affordable housing project at State Street School site

Under a proposed development plan, the State Street School building in Brewer will be torn down to make way for an affordable housing project.
Under a proposed development plan, the State Street School building in Brewer will be torn down to make way for an affordable housing project. Buy Photo
Posted Sept. 17, 2013, at 9:41 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The old State Street School is coming down and a developer plans to build a 48-unit affordable housing project in its place, D’arcy Main-Boyington, Brewer’s economic development director, told city councilors Monday while discussing a tax break for the project.

Councilors approved a temporary tax-increment financing plan that would reduce the property taxes for developer Community Housing of Maine, requiring them to pay 49 percent of the project’s property taxes for the first 15 years after the apartments are completed. Main-Boyington said that the pilot TIF is just a placeholder and that she expects a TIF agreement to be on the books before the project is finished.

“Once the clock starts clicking on the TIF, it’s for 15 years,” she told councilors, explaining why the pilot was needed.

After 15 years, the project owner, which is listed as Community Housing of Maine and-or Village Centre Housing Partners, will have to pay the full property tax bill, Main-Boyington said. The pilot TIF is needed so Community Housing of Maine can apply for funding, she said.

“Community Housing of Maine has 15 different housing projects around the state and all are affordable housing,” she said.

State Street sits on 4.6 acres and Main-Boyington said she’s pretty sure the planned 48-unit project will have three floors.

One Community Housing of Maine project recently finished in Portland, called Elm Terrace, was visited by Main-Boyington and other city officials as part of the TIF planning process.

City leaders applied for federal hazardous material cleanup funds after learning in 2008 that four schools, including State Street School and Brewer Middle School, would become their property in 2010 when the new Brewer Community School opened to replace them.

They learned in May that the Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields program issued the city two $200,000 grants, one to remove asbestos and other hazards from the middle school and the other to pay off a portion of the cost to demolish State Street School.

The Brewer Housing Authority is renovating the middle school into affordable housing for residents 55 and older and the city also created the Highland Street Community Revitalization Plan in October 2012 to revitalize the block around the old schools.

“It will fit in there nicely,” Main-Boyington said of the planned housing project.

During the meeting, city councilors also:

• Recognized Matthew Gross, 10, who created what he calls The Ride for the Wet Nose to benefit the Bangor Humane Society. He raised more than $1,000 last year and this year.

• Honored Nicole Gogan, Brewer’s economic development specialist, for her efforts during the Joshua Chamberlain Golf Classic that raised more than $4,000 for the Maine Infantry Foundation.

• Issued an amusement license to the Bangor Area Recovery Network, at 142 Center St., and waived the $150 fee by a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Joseph Ferris voting against the waiver.

• Set an Oct. 8 public hearing to determine if 4 Somerset St. should be deemed a dangerous property. The hearing starts at 6 p.m. at the City Council chambers.

• Approved installing a set of stone steps behind 87 South Main St. that go down to the Penobscot River to create a kayak and canoe launch site along the Penobscot Landing waterfront trail.

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