AUGUSTA — A proposal to build 34 units of rental housing on a corner of the city-owned former Statler mill site has residents of Maple Street concerned about the potential impact on their neighborhood.

The residents said the proposed Augusta Housing Authority development would bring too much traffic to the narrow residential street and disrupt their otherwise usually quiet neighborhood.

“I agree we need housing (in the area), but I’m not really sure about putting it down here,” said Tony Pushard, who rents a Maple Street apartment near the end of the road where the proposed new housing would be. “I like to be able to walk my dog there and let him off leash. I like the quiet of the neighborhood and this is going to disturb it.”

The housing authority’s leader, meanwhile, said Maple Street was one of two roads used by hundreds of mill workers each day to get to and from work at the site, and that residents’ concerns about the proposal, while understandable, are unfounded.

“It can absolutely handle it,” Amanda Bartlett, executive director of Augusta Housing Authority, said. “It was the access, with another access point, for the tissue mill when it had about 550 employees. It’s going to be really minor compared to the traffic generated by Statler.”

The mill closed in 2000. Prior to that, it had operated under various owners for 125 years.


The housing authority is hosting a public “neighborhood meeting” at 5 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers at Augusta City Center, to talk about the project with its neighbors.

Bartlett said the authority set up the meeting after hearing there were concerns in the neighborhood.

“We know having a multi-family housing development proposed (on a street where you live), that can cause some anxiety,” Bartlett said. “We want to pull together some neighbors, give them an opportunity to learn more about what we’re proposing and give them a chance to ask questions and get more information. We want to answer questions and get information out there to make people feel more comfortable.”

Bartlett said the authority dealt with similar concerns when it converted the former Hodgkins Middle School, also in Augusta, into Hodgkins School Apartments. She said residents of the neighborhood around the old school similarly worried about traffic problems. She said the apartments at Hodgkins generate far fewer trips than the building’s previous use as a school. She said she has heard no complaints from neighbors to Hodgkins, about the development, since the housing there opened.

One resident of Maple Street who served on the Eastside Planning Committee which in 2011 studied how best to redevelop portions of the east side of Augusta, including the riverside former Statler site, said the committee warned against adding more traffic to Maple Street. And, the committee’s vision for the site didn’t include an affordable housing development.

Joyce Grondin, whose house is two houses up Maple Street from the proposed development, said the committee recommended a vision for the site including mixed uses such as niche shops, high-end condominiums on the northern end, boat slips and businesses that would draw people to them, and to Augusta.


“My biggest thing is they’re giving up on the vision,” for the Statler site, which has since been renamed by the city as Kennebec Locke at Head Tide, Grondin said. “A developer is not going to want to come here with (the proposed housing development) there.”

Bartlett said the property would be professionally managed and to become a tenant there, people would have to undergo criminal background and reference checks.

The apartments would not be subsidized, but would be available only to people who meet income restrictions of between 50 and 60 percent of area median income. Bartlett said their target audience would be low-to-moderate income working people.

She said for a single person, the income limit would be about $26,000, while for a family of three it would be about $33,000 a year.

The proposed townhouse-style buildings would have 16 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom units, and seven three-bedroom units. Rents would range from around $600 to $900.

Bartlett noted a 2012 report by Eaton Peabody Consulting Group recommended part of the parcel, acquired by the city after the former owner didn’t keep up with property taxes on it, be developed with townhouse housing. A map with a site plan issued as part of that report also included housing specifically on the site on the northern end of the property, back away from the riverfront, for housing. That is the same spot where the housing authority wants to build this housing.


Bartlett said the housing authority is hoping the city, as it did with the Hodgkins property, will agree to give the property — or agree to a long-term no-cost lease — to the housing authority. The authority is also seeking a tax break from the city, which the city’s Tax Increment Financing Committee is expected to consider making a recommendation on Friday.

Both the tax break and sale or leasing of the land would require a vote by city councilors. Bartlett said that could occur later this month.

She said the authority hopes to start construction in the fall of next year.

She said eventually the city-owned Statler site, where city officials have so far been unable to attract larger redevelopment proposals, will likely be built out with more development. When it is, it will likely have access from other spots, including through a site now occupied by a currently closed metal recycling business on the southern end.

Pushard and Grondin both said the already narrow Maple Street gets even narrower in the winter when snowbanks line the street. They also both said they worry children who would live in the proposed housing could be tempted to trespass on the adjacent former mill site and possibly be hurt.

Grondin said the neighborhood has changed since the mill was operating and workers used Maple Street to get to and from work. She said back then many mill workers lived in apartment buildings on Maple Street and walked to work. Since the mill closed the street has become more of a low-key, quiet neighborhood, she said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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