March 22, 2018
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Bangor to consider banning new first-floor residential units downtown

Micky Bedell | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN
File photo of downtown Bangor in the early evening.
By Alex Acquisto, BDN Staff

Bangor is considering prohibiting developers from constructing new residential units on the ground floor of downtown buildings.

The ordinance, if approved by the city council, would bar developers from building new residential units or renovating existing space for that use on the ground floor in most of the city’s Downtown Development District, which extends from the Bangor Police Department on Main Street to the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street and roughly from Broadway across the Kenduskeag Stream to High Street.

“We just want to protect the integrity of the downtown moving forward,” said Community and Economic Development Director Tanya Emery, who proposed the ordinance change.

Having first-floor spaces filled with businesses, restaurants and other public uses rather than apartments, “makes our downtown exciting and vibrant,” Emery said.

A city council committee voted Tuesday evening to forward the proposal to the full council. A provision will be added first that allows an applicant to file for exceptions, which is customary with zoning rules.

Once that happens, it will move forward for council approval. The ordinance would go into effect 10 days after the council vote.

The city has promoted downtown apartment spaces by hosting events and open houses, like the apartment crawl in March of 2015. But it doesn’t want housing there to take space that could otherwise be used by businesses, Emery said. In 2016, the former sporting goods store on West Market Square was converted into 18 luxury apartments, which has ground-floor residential space. The building was later sold to an out-of-state developer for just over $3 million.

“As our downtown continues to revitalize and demand for downtown living continues to grow, an increasing number of ground floor spaces are being renovated into residential spaces,” the proposed ordinance reads. “If allowed without restriction, this trend could reduce the vibrancy of the downtown area, making it less attractive to both residential and commercial users.”

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