BANGOR — The city is moving full speed ahead on developing the front two-thirds of the Freese’s building. Thanks to a vote by the community and economic development committee Wednesday, an option agreement with Realty Resources Chartered will be on the City Council’s agenda Monday night.
The 17-page measure would give the Rockport company — which already has developed senior citizen housing in the rear of the Main Street landmark — an option on the building until Nov. 30, with a six-month extension available. The purchase price has been set at $100,000.
Realty Resources would spend nearly $6 million to renovate the six-story building into:
Retail space on the first floor at 74-96 Main St.
Office space on the second and third floors.
Forty units of congregate housing on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. These would be individual apartments with a common dining area available and a variety of “assisted living” services.
Construction would start within three months of the sale of the building, and would be finished by Dec. 31, 1999.
As it did on the first project, Realty Resources would seek low-income tax credits through the Maine State Housing Authority, and would ask for tax increment financing through the city.
Rodney McKay, director of community and economic development for the city, called the plan “a good, sound development proposal. Our recommendation would be that we go with this proposal.”
The submission came to the city last week in response to a request for proposals issued last month.
McKay told the committee that the city also had received a letter from Fred Costlow, attorney for the Northern Conservatory of Music, which held a prior agreement with the city.
The City Council last month declined to approve a revision of that agreement, thus severing its relationship with the conservatory, which had planned to build the Maine School for the Arts in the structure.
Costlow’s letter asked that the city honor the agreement of January 1997, McKay explained, adding, “In our opinion, that was unresponsive to our request for proposals.”
Councilors James Tyler, Michael Aube and Joseph Baldacci then voted to recommend the new option agreement with Realty Resources to the City Council.
Tyler said the company had “an excellent track record, both with the city and with this structure.”
“I thought it was an excellent proposal,” Aube said, while adding that he’d like to see a workshop or other effort take a look at the mix of building uses in the downtown as a whole.
In other business, the committee directed staff to pursue the option of tearing down the brick filter house and wooden engineer’s house and garage at the Waterworks on State Street.
McKay told the group that while it would be great to have a developer who wanted to use all of the buildings on the site, the reality was that the property might be more likely to attract a developer if it had more parking space.
Because the property is on the city’s list of landmarks, the process will include applying to the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness, McKay said, then waiting for six months.
During that time, the property must be put up for sale, an act he said would be no problem because the city has been trying to sell or redevelop it for more than 20 years.
If a developer came along that needed the parking space, McKay said, the city’s having put in the request to demolish those few buildings would speed up the process.