Bangor Housing poised to move forward with redevelopment projects; bring new apartments, commercial space to downtown area

Bangor Housing wants to tear down six buildings on First Street and rebuild them into new rental units under Bangor Housing. The units would be geared toward working families and have to go through an application process.  A few residents on Second Street are worried that by building more apartment units, they'll only bring in more of the same sorts of tenants and problems.
Bangor Housing wants to tear down six buildings on First Street and rebuild them into new rental units under Bangor Housing. The units would be geared toward working families and have to go through an application process. A few residents on Second Street are worried that by building more apartment units, they'll only bring in more of the same sorts of tenants and problems. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 29, 2013, at 2:38 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 29, 2013, at 8:23 p.m.
The former Freese's Department Store building in Bangor.
The former Freese's Department Store building in Bangor. Buy Photo

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BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Housing Development Corp. is closing in on the launch of a pair of projects that will bring about 34 new apartment units to the downtown area.

On Monday, crews are scheduled to start the demolition of six buildings near the intersection of First and Davis streets, according to Mike Myatt, executive director of Bangor Housing. The aging buildings, some of which have structural issues and crumbling foundations, will be replaced with 24 townhouse-style apartment units.

Bangor Housing also is preparing to rehabilitate a long-underused portion of one of Bangor’s most iconic downtown buildings — the former Freese’s Department Store. Most of that building is already occupied. The top three floors are home to 39 assisted living apartment units, while a large portion of the bottom three floors along Main Street are home to the Maine Discovery Museum. The rear third of the building facing Pickering Square also was developed into elderly housing apartments.

Another chunk of the building — the lower three floors at the intersection of Main and Water streets — also was supposed to be developed into condominium units by Realty Resources Management, but the group never completed the project. The city took over that portion of the building a year ago and began searching for someone to invest the money to do something with the long-underused space.

Bangor Housing threw its hat in the ring in April, offering to invest about $1 million to develop the remaining vacant space in the building, creating 10 new apartment units on the 2nd and 3rd floors and opening the first floor along Main Street, next door to the museum, as commercial space.

Just like the previous owner, Bangor Housing Development Corp. will pay taxes on the property, likely at a higher rate than the previous owners because the $1 million development investment will increase the property’s assessed value.

“That was important for us because we weren’t offering to pay more than $1 for the space because it’s completely undeveloped,” Myatt told the committee. The city and Bangor Housing are still working out the details of the deal.

The apartments will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, according to Myatt. Rents should fall in the $750-$1,100 range.

The space is essentially an “open template,” Myatt said.

“Theres no mechanical or water or electricity in those units at all, it’s really just been completely gutted out,” Myatt told the city’s Business and Economic Development Committee during a meeting earlier this week.

Bangor Housing Development Corp. is a development wing of Bangor Housing Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that provides housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income households.

Pending City Council approval of the development plan in December, the redevelopment project could go out to bid in January and people could be moving into their new apartments by June, according to Myatt.

At the same time, Bangor Housing will be in the midst of its First Street Project.

Bangor purchased the six apartment buildings in a private deal with their previous owner for about $500,000. After demolition is completed and the site cleared, construction will begin on two main buildings, one on each side of First Street, containing a total of 24 units.

The effort would require a roughly $4 million investment, according to Myatt, who said he has applied for tax credits through MaineHousing that would be passed onto whatever entity puts up the money. Those properties also will be taxed.

The apartments would not be rent-subsidized, but would be priced to accommodate some lower-wage earners, Myatt has said. There would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Myatt estimates that rent for a one-bedroom unit would range from $618 to $742; two bedrooms for $742-891; or $856-$1,028 for three.

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