April 08, 2020

Congregate housing sought for Freese’s > Rockport firm would develop Main Street side of building for senior citizen residences

BANGOR — The Rockport company that renovated part of the Freese’s building now wants to redevelop the Main Street side for retail and office space, and 40 units of congregate housing for the elderly.

William Hahn, vice president of Realty Resources Chartered, came to Bangor Wednesday afternoon to attend the opening of proposals on the city-owned part of the six-story building.

As proposed, the $6 million project would comprise:

Four retail units on the first floor.

Office space on the second and third floors.

Affordable one-bedroom units for senior citizens on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors.

If the proposal should be accepted by the city, Realty Resources would plan a 13-month construction period from Dec. 1 of this year to Dec. 31, 1999. Curtis Walter Stewart Architects of Portland has drawn up plans and construction would be done by Pen Bay Builders, a Realty Resources company.

A partnership would be created to own the housing project, and the retail and office units would technically be condominiums — actually sold to those who planned to use them. The city would be paid $200,000 for the building — half for the residential space, and half for the rest.

Funding sources for the project, the company hopes, would include $2.7 million from investors, tax credits from the Maine State Housing Authority, bank financing and two types of funding through the city: tax-increment financing and Community Development Block Grant money.

Last year, Realty Resources purchased and redeveloped the rear one-third of the building into 34 units of affordable apartments for senior citizens.

The tenants live on their own, but a component of the Eastern Agency on Aging provides a variety of social services to the tenants. About two-thirds of the apartments have been rented so far, Hahn said Wednesday.

The congregate housing units, he said, would give each tenant an apartment with bedroom, living-dining room, bathroom and kitchenette. Residents could take their meals in the common dining room on the fourth floor, and also have use of a lounge on the fifth floor, and library on the sixth floor.

The tenants here would need more assistance than those in the original apartments, Hahn said, and again those services would come through the EAA.

Realty Resources built a similar project last year in Camden, Merry Gardens, also served by the EAA. That building is nearly full.

When the city sent out its request for proposals on the Freese’s building last month, several companies inquired about the project, but only Realty Resources submitted a proposal. Company President Joseph Cloutier had sent the city a letter last fall saying that if the building became available at some point, Realty Resources would be interested in submitting a concept.

The company has built 840 units of housing throughout New England, all of it designed as affordable housing, and is now rehabilitating 134 units in Bath.

The city sought proposals for the building after the City Council voted last month to indefinitely postpone an agreement with the Maine School for the Arts.

MSA President Daryl Rhodes said Wednesday he hoped that the city would not take any action on Realty Resources’ proposal “until they talk with us again.” He said he would like to clear up the council’s misconceptions over what has happened in recent months.

Rhodes is also founder of the Northern Conservatory of Music and the Performing Arts, which had tentative developer status on the Freese’s building and planned to build the arts school there.

There is still an agreement in place on the building, Rhodes said, one the city and the conservatory signed last January.

Under that document, he said, “we would submit a business plan, funding plan and market feasibility, and architectural designs. They were all approved” by the council.

“We would have two years to raise $2 million,” beginning June 30, he said, adding that “the $100,000 pledge from the conservatory is still in place,” and that the main change needed would be for the city to change the developer from the conservatory to the arts school itself.

In response to the city’s request for proposals on the building, the MSA sent a letter asking the city to abide by the original agreement.

“It’s very clear the city is not going forward on the prior agreement,” City Solicitor Erik Stumpfel said Wednesday. That agreement did run out in August, he said.

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