Discussions are underway to redevelop 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. The building, which would be torn down and replaced with a 38-unit apartment building, was empty Monday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The developer of Stevens Commons in Hallowell is floating a proposal to build a new 38-unit apartment building for working people at a neglected Western Avenue site where other developers have tried, but failed, to develop housing before.

Construction company owner and real estate developer Matt Morrill recently gave Augusta city councilors a rough idea of his proposal for 99 Western Ave., in part to gauge their level of interest as he and city officials anticipate the project will likely need a special contract zone, which would have to be approved by councilors, to be built at the site.

Some councilors fawned over his proposal, saying it would bring much-needed new housing to the city and redevelop a long neglected site where the current building, which would be torn down, has stood vacant for a decade.

“When I first saw Mastway on it I was very excited, because you have a great reputation in this area and you do great work,” At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot said of the proposal by Morrill, owner of Mastway Development. “This is very high on our list of goals — workforce housing is one of our biggest needs, as is every other type of housing. This is definitely 35 to 40 units we really need, and I think they’ll be filled in two days.”

However Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti, whose ward includes that part of the city, said she’s already getting calls from neighbors of the site who are concerned about the proposal and its potential impact on their neighborhood. She said, in particular, neighbors are worried visitors to the proposed apartment building might park on Pike Street, which is adjacent to the site. She also noted the high-traffic, four-lane Western Avenue is a dangerous street to cross, saying she herself saw someone get struck and killed by a vehicle one winter.

“I don’t know what we could do to make that area safer,” Conti said when councilors discussed the proposal at their meeting last week. “I know there is a need for housing. I don’t think this is an ideal spot for housing.”


Morrill said each of the 38 units, which would be a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments, would have its own parking space. He said he is sensitive to parking and neighborhood issues and said as soon as he put the building under contract to purchase he went out and knocked on doors in the neighborhood.

“I think we’ve come up with a good plan that would fit the site. It’ll be a little less intrusive than some of the other proposals,” Morrill said. “Part of my business plan when I take on any project is to involve the community and try take a neglected piece of property and make it into a neighborhood asset.”

He said the target audience for the units would be working people. It would developed with a MaineHousing program and be restricted to people making no more than 60% of the area mean income.

Morrill said lease rates would likely be between about $850 to just over $900 a month.

The proposal, which Morrill said will be going to the Augusta Planning Board for consideration in the coming months, isn’t the first to suggest redeveloping the site for housing.

In 2020, developer, real estate agent and landlord Jim Pepin sought waivers to some city zoning requirements to build a new, 50-unit apartment building for senior citizens on the site. He withdrew his proposal after the Planning Board voted, 2-3, against recommending a proposed contract zoning agreement, which would have waived some requirements of the two zoning districts that apply to the site.


Board members a the time indicated they were concerned the location on busy Western Avenue would not be a good place for senior citizens to live, and that the proposal didn’t include enough parking. That proposal included 42 parking spaces, falling short of the zoning ordinance requirement of one parking space per unit.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins said with a little common sense that previous project could have been approved. But he expressed support for Morrill’s new proposal.

“We’re not going to solve our housing issue by one project or a massive development, it’s going to be one structure at a time, one home at a time, and in this case, 38 (apartments) — that’s fantastic,” Judkins said.

Morrill said his proposed project will likely need a contract zone agreement with the city to provide exemptions to some city zoning rules such as potentially, floor area ratios, impervious area coverage and a reduction in the required setback for the proposed new building.

Augusta, and other areas of the state, has seen a shortage of available housing at all levels.

Keith Luke, the city’s economic development director, said 99 Western Ave. has been a problem property and a site targeted for redevelopment since he first starting working for the city 10 years ago.

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