Real Estate

South Portland planners OK $13 million Avesta Housing project

Architect Jesse Thompson of Kaplan Thompson Architects addresses the South Portland Planning Board Tuesday.

SOUTH PORTLAND — A $13 million, 64-unit mixed-income housing project approved for Westbrook Street could be on track to have tenants move in by September 2019.

The Planning Board Tuesday night unanimously approved the final plan application from Avesta Housing for the five-story, mixed-use project at 586-600 Westbrook St.

A rendering depicts the 64-unit West End Apartments proposed for 586 Westbrook St. in South Portland with commercial space on the ground floor.

Rendering courtesy of Kaplan Thompson Architects

Design plans include four floors of rental housing, ranging from studios to three- bedroom apartments, above a 4,000-square-foot retail area on the first floor. An office space for the Opportunity Alliance’s Neighborhood Resource Hub will also occupy the first floor.

Although a public hearing on the matter was scheduled, no one commented.

The project is geared almost exclusively to people earning 50 or 60 percent of the area median income. According to census data, the median household income in Cumberland County is $61,000.

Avesta development officer Tyler Norod said at a Nov. 22 meeting still needs almost $7 million in low-income housing tax credits distributed by the Maine State Housing Authority to help finance $9.5 million in construction costs.

The deadline for applying for the credits is Feb. 8., 2018, and Norod on Tuesday said the MSHA grant will be the largest piece of the pie needed to fund the project. He expects the agency will know if it is approved for the grant by late March, when it plans to move forward with bid and construction plans.

The credits are passed through MSHA from the IRS and last for 10 years. They are intended to attract investments in projects where rents would not cover the costs of construction, debt service and operations.

According to a memo to the council, Avesta is also seeking a $3.8 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a $500,00 Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston subsidy to pay for development and operations.

The new housing is expected to provide $104,000 annually in new property tax revenues, based on the current tax rate of $18 per $1,000 of assessed value. The 30-year agreement would return $78,000 annually to Avesta for operating costs, and the remaining $26,000 would be allocated to offset School Department costs associated with children who live in the new housing.

Norod said the project could be sent out to bid and construction could start next September, with a tentative one-year construction timeline.

The new West End Neighborhood Master Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in August, calls for creating a neighborhood center and for redeveloping “the triangle” – a strip of land on Westbrook Street between Brick Hill and Redbank – into a more vibrant neighborhood center, with community gathering spaces and streetscape improvements.

Avesta is partnering with Quang Nguyen, owner of Le Variety. In June, the city approved using $86,000 from its Revolving Loan Fund Program for Nguyen to purchase a vacant quarter-acre lot at 600 Westbrook St., next to his existing store at 586 Westbrook St.

The project is being designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects of Portland.

Read the story on theforecaster.net.

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