AUGUSTA — City councilors are scheduled to meet Thursday to consider seeking a developer to build housing at a city-owned riverside former paper mill site.
The city acquired the 20-acre former Statler mill site, also previously known as the Augusta Tissue and American Tissue property, for nonpayment of taxes in 2009. In anticipation of finding private developers to redevelop the property, the city had most of the structures on the former mill property demolished and worked with state and federal environmental agencies to have pollution at the site cleaned up.
A conceptual plan drawn up by a consultant hired by the city in 2012 envisioned a multi-pronged development at the site, with businesses including restaurants alongside the Kennebec River on the southern end of the property, offices and other commercial uses in the middle section, and a townhouse-style housing development on the northern end, near Cushnoc Crossing bridge.
As part of the effort to encourage redevelopment there, the city renamed the area Kennebec Lockes, partly in recognition of an old lock on the property.
Thus far the property has remained vacant, with no developers expressing interest in investing in the site.
But earlier this year, City Manager William Bridgeo said two “credible” developers inquired about proposing to develop housing on the northern end of the property, which has about a mile of frontage on the Kennebec River.
On Thursday, city councilors are scheduled to vote on whether to issue a formal request for proposals to try to draw out all developers interested in building housing on the northernmost 4 acres of the property.
“We’re seeing what interest is out there,” Bridgeo said. “And as the developers are aware, it will be public. So the whole world will be able to see what is being proposed and make judgments of whether it is a good deal for the city or not.”
The city would reserve the right to reject any proposals. The city staff would review all proposals received and recommend which, if any, should be pursued, with city councilors having the final say about whether to strike a deal with any of the would-be developers.
The request for proposals states the “preferred proposal” would come from a developer willing and able to start construction within 18 months and complete it within three years, and include payment to the city for the land. Bridgeo noted, however, the city will remain flexible and those details would be open to discussion and would be addressed more specifically in a more detailed contract if a developer is selected.
“The last thing we want to do, if someone wants to potentially build 20 units of housing on the river, is be the reason the project slows down or doesn’t happen,” Bridgeo said.
The 2012 master plan for the site included a large pavilion with an open urban-style market, a passenger train station, a restaurant or brew pub, offices, townhouses, retail shops and access to the property by boats from the river.
At-Large City Councilor Marci Alexander said, as a soon-to-be empty-nester, that she likes the concept of a riverside community of new, low-maintenance housing.
“I’d like to reserve a two-bedroom on the water,” she said at last week’s council meeting, “with somebody who will mow the lawn and take care of the siding and all that stuff I currently do.”
Proposals for the site would be due by May 1, if councilors agree to issue the request for proposals.
City councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chamber at Augusta City Center.
Councilors are also scheduled to:
• Consider reaffirming their previous authorization of Bridgeo to close on the Howard Hill property, which the Kennebec Land Trust is giving to the city;
• Consider authorizing Bridgeo to contract with REMAX realty to list a tax-acquired property at 8 Maine St. for sale;
• Hold a first reading, of two required by the city charter, on a proposal to designate the boundaries of two local historic districts, on downtown Water Street and Bond Street, with the boundaries of additional districts planned in the west side neighborhood area of the city yet to be designated;
• Meet in a closed-door session to discuss pending litigation; and
• Consider allowing the Police Department to accept the transfer of funds seized in criminal investigations.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647