AUGUSTA — Construction of a controversial new 29-unit apartment complex on a portion of the city-owned former Statler mill site is expected to begin next month.

The Augusta Housing Authority closed on a $4 million construction loan with Bangor Savings Bank on Thursday that, combined with the approval earlier this year of federal low-income housing tax credits and a loan from MaineHousing, will allow construction of the project to begin soon after the start of the new year. It probably will be ready for occupancy in about a year.

The site will be accessed through the Maple Street neighborhood, where several residents and building owners objected to the project largely out of concern it’ll bring too much traffic down what they describe as a narrow, quiet residential street.

Amanda Olson, executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority, said Friday that she’s thrilled the project is moving forward to help provide more housing, which she said is needed badly in Augusta.

Olson said the development — offering 29 units consisting of 14 one-bedroom apartments, eight two-bedrooms, and seven three-bedrooms — will be done with its neighbors’ concerns in mind.

“We’re certainly remaining very sympathetic to concerns in the neighborhood,” she said Friday. “Any time there are major changes to where we live, obviously that can be upsetting. We’ll do our best to make things go as smoothly as possible for the neighborhood.”

Roger Madore, who owns an apartment building on Maple Street, where he also lives, and who was one of numerous neighborhood residents to express concerns about the project as aspects of it were debated and approved by the Augusta City Council and Planning Board, said he remains concerned the project will bring additional traffic to Maple Street.

“I’m not a big fan. I moved here 20-some years ago because it is a quiet street, a dead-end street,” Madore said. “We don’t see a lot of traffic, and now there is going to be a lot more. I think Maple Street should be left like it is.”

Madore and other neighbors said the development will be at the bottom of a hill where it is hard to see traffic, and which motorists have a hard time getting up in the winter because of a lack of traction. He said there aren’t sidewalks in the neighborhood and plans to put sidewalks in probably would encroach on people’s front yards and porches, because residences in the neighborhood are built close to the road.

The housing authority converted the former Hodgkins school into Hodgkins School Apartments housing for senior citizens in 2016. Olson said some neighbors of that project also were concerned that traffic past their homes would increase because of the redevelopment of the property. But she said the housing authority has received no complaints since the apartments became occupied, and neighbors’ concerns about traffic there appear to have been unfounded.

“My hope, based on what we experienced with Hodgkins, is once the building comes to fruition and is in operation, we’ll find people’s fears about it don’t actually occur,” Olson said. “We haven’t had any complaints since (Hodgkins School Apartments) has been in operation. I expect that will be the same with Maple Street.”

The development was originally going to have 34 units but was downsized to 29 — in part, Olson said, because of neighbors’ concerns of about its effect on them.

She said it’s taken more than a year of work to secure funding and approvals for the project.

“We’re just thrilled to have this project moving forward,” she said, noting consultants Laura Reading and Kevin Bunker, of Developers Collaborative, were key. “It’s great to get to a place where we can start building and see the project come to fruition. Quality housing and affordable housing are desperately needed in Augusta. I wish we could have built more than 29 units.”

The apartments are designed for working people. Rent there won’t be subsidized, but occupants may not exceed income levels to live there. Residents must earn 60 percent of the area median income or less, which, for a four-person family, would be just under $40,000 a year.

Olson said rents will range from $533 to $939 a month, with units generally between 500 and 1,140 square feet. Tenants will be responsible for paying for electricity and hot water.

A market survey for the project conducted by The Signal Group in February indicated there are 4,113 rental units in the Augusta market area and demand for 4,190 units, leaving a shortage of 77 units.

The project is expected to cost about $5.8 million. A little over $800,000 of that will come from a MaineHousing loan, with the rest of the funding to pay back the construction loan coming through federal low-income tax credits. Similar tax credit deals help finance both the Hodgkins project and the conversion of the former Cony flatiron building into senior housing. The tax credits were awarded through a competitive process in which the Maple Street project tied with one other as the top-scoring project in Maine.

City officials, as they did with both Hodgkins and the flatiron buildings, agreed to a long-term lease of the property where the apartments will be built, for $1 a year.

Portland Builders will be the project’s construction manager, and there are likely to be a number of subcontractors. C and C Realty Management, of Augusta, will manage the property once it is built, as it does Hodgkins.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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