As available housing is quickly snapped up in this tight market for both buyers and renters, this community is starting to look for ways to expand the possibilities.
The city of Sanford and the Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast will hold a design workshop Sept. 26 and 28, to explore opportunities to create housing for people who work in the Sanford region. The workshop will focus on the Stenton Mill site — the location of a recent fire — and nearby properties. It is intended to help the community imagine and discuss the type of redevelopment it would like to see in the area of the mill, said Sanford City Planner Beth Della Valle.
The event will also include opportunities for public input, organizers say, ranging from a community listening session to a community reveal of generated ideas.
At the listening session, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, people are encouraged to come and talk about what they’d like to see in the redevelopment of the area of Stenton Trust Mill, what they don’t want to see, and the like.
Two days later, on Thursday, a team of professional architects, engineers, developers, bankers and others will volunteer their time to create drawings and policy recommendations that reflect the community’s vision and help guide any future development plans. The workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at City Hall, and Della Valle said folks are welcome to drop in, see the progress being made and offer suggestions.
That evening at 6 p.m., the designs will be revealed.
Sessions will take place in City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall.
“Members of the public are not only welcome, they are essential to the success of the workshop. We encourage them to join the discussion and make sure their voices are heard,” said City Manager Steve Buck.
The event will bring together property owners, municipal staff, boards, businesses, and community members with the volunteer architects, engineers, developers, real estate agents, and bankers to generate ideas for neighborhood development, said Della Valle in a prior interview.
“Sanford recognizes that its employers are experiencing challenges with recruiting and retaining workers, some who cannot find acceptable housing in Sanford,” Della Valle said.
For the last several months, the Maine Association of Realtors has said inventories of existing homes for sale are low. Those in the rental market say they get multiple applications for available apartments or rental houses, and some have waiting lists.
The city is among two communities in Maine and New Hampshire that have been awarded the workshop by the seacoast coalition, which works with communities to foster awareness and ideas for workforce housing.
The area around Stenton Trust Mill emerged as a location to be looked at before the June 23 fire that gutted the back tower of the long-vacant mill, said Della Valle.
The workshop is designed to raise awareness of the link between workforce housing, jobs and sprawl, a need to re-create and strengthen the market for retail and service development downtown, and to increase investment in workforce housing, among other goals.
“We hope that the workshop will engage existing and prospective residents and employers and help provide scope for new public-private partnerships in the heart of Sanford,” said Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council Executive Director Jim Nimon in a news release.
About 68 percent of the city’s population lives in single-family housing, with 32 percent in multi-family dwellings. According to information compiled by Community Development Director Ian Houseal, 16 percent of single-family dwellings in Sanford were built before 1930. On average, all single-family dwellings were built in 1957. For multi-family dwellings, 78 percent were built before 1930, with the average pegged as 1908.