BUCKSPORT — A developer of affordable housing complexes across the U.S. from Montana to Portland, Maine, may turn a building at 27 Main St. into an 18-unit apartment building with retail spaces.
Penn Lindsay, a principal at Wishrock, outlined the firm’s tentative plans to Bucksport’s Economic Development Committee July 21. Wishrock has rentals in about 18 states.
“I want to emphasize this is very preliminary,” Lindsay said. “I tried to put together a very conceptual sketch. I think we’ve got a proposal that could work.”
The project would entail funding from the Maine Housing Authority as well as a tax-increment financing district from the town of Bucksport. Lindsay said Maine Housing would provide Wishrock with a subsidy per unit up to 18 units.
The complex would be aimed at housing for residents who earn 80 percent of the area’s median income. Those are numbers set by the government.
Board member Ron Russell of Verona Island asked about rent prices.
Lindsay said one-bedroom apartments would likely be $1,025 and two-bedrooms $1,225. One-bedroom apartments would be 600 square feet and two bedrooms 840 square feet.
The development would include 12 two-bedroom units and six one-bedrooms.
“It’s a very simple building, simple but attractive, and it would fit into the existing streetscape,” Lindsay said. The two-story building would have gables and dormers with retail spaces on either end to give symmetry, the developer said.
Local landlord and board member Larry Wahl advised that 600 square feet would be difficult to rent as retail space because it’s “not a lot,” size-wise.
For perspective, the former Bucksport Variety space is about 600 square feet.
Town Councilor Mark Eastman, who is chairman of the Economic Development Committee and a Realtor, asked about having one 1,200-square-foot retail space instead of two 600-square-foot retail spaces.
“That’s actually a great suggestion,” Lindsay said.
Town Councilor and committee member Arthur Morrison questioned management of the property and whether the manager would be local or from Portland, where the firm’s other rental units are located.
“In this case, because the size of the building is so small, we would take this on and manage it,” Lindsay replied. “We would hire someone locally. We’d have someone who had a certain number of hours per week. It might be 15 hours a week that a person is available and on-site.”
Committee member Richard Peterson asked what kinds of problems the company has had with its existing properties.
“My experience down in Saco tells me we have to ask these questions,” Peterson said.
“We have had very good success in managing our properties,” Lindsay replied. Screening criteria gets the “kind of tenancy we need. We keep a close eye and be willing and ready to evict.”
Committee members asked about a time frame. There isn’t anything firm.
“We’ve got a long way to go with making applications to Maine Housing and getting awards from Maine Housing,” Lindsay said.
In addition to funding from Maine Housing, Wishrock would seek a tax-increment financing (TIF) arrangement from the town of Bucksport. Town Manager Susan Lessard explained that TIFs granted for affordable housing are much like other TIFs.
“Generally, the town essentially agrees to rebate some percentage of taxes assessed annually on the value created by the project,” Lessard said.
There is no commitment from the town yet, according to Lessard.
“All that Wishrock has requested is a nonbinding letter of interest to allow them to make application to Maine State Housing for funding for workforce housing,” she said.