An artist rendering of the Sturgeon Landing apartment building proposed for 1 Park St. in Augusta. The city’s Planning Board approved the project this week in the latest attempt to meet what officials say is an urgent demand for more housing in the area. Courtesy of Ryan Senatore Architecture

AUGUSTA — An Augusta Housing Authority proposal to build a new 32-unit apartment building on land currently owned by the city on Park Street was approved by the Planning Board this week in the latest development aimed at trying to meet what officials say is an urgent demand for more housing in the area.

City councilors also recently approved a contract zone agreement which waives the city’s per-unit space requirements for a proposal to build a 38-unit apartment building on Western Avenue. The change will allow that project, proposed by the developer of the Stevens Commons complex in Hallowell, to move forward to the Planning Board for consideration.

Amanda Olson, executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority, said the authority’s proposed project on Park Street, a short, narrow street off Bangor Street running between the Queen’s Court mini-mall and Riverside Cemetery, would help address an unprecedented shortage of housing in Augusta and the 19 communities surrounding it that are within the authority’s service area.

She said housing data indicates Augusta alone needs 870 additional affordable housing units, a number that swells above 1,000 if Gardiner is included, and above 2,400 if the Waterville and Winslow areas are included.

She said demand is so great even people with low incomes who qualify and receive housing vouchers from the federal Section 8 program can’t find any rentals they can afford.

“I think we’re all acutely aware of the increased need for housing in our community,” Olson told Planning Board members at their Aug. 9 meeting. “Last year I saw unsheltered homeless people living here in Augusta outdoors in the winter, which I haven’t historically seen. Last year we pulled 535 names off our Section 8 voucher waiting list, and only 20 families were able to find housing, out of 535. So that really speaks to the lack of any affordable housing inventory. So the need is really acute. So, as we work together to bring forward large-scale housing developments — 32, 34 units at a time — we’re just chipping away at a huge need. So, it’s important work we’re all doing here together.”


Board members approved the project unanimously despite some of them having concerns about the safety of the site, specifically the narrow Park Street’s proximity to traffic coming and going from the Dairy Queen, which has a drive-thru, on the adjacent Queen’s Court property. Board members expressed concern, especially about the safety of children living in the new apartment building — which would be built toward the rear of the ice cream shop and mini-mall area — potentially crossing Park Street, including for an ice cream.

They approved the project with the understanding the developer will work with the city engineer, and with the neighboring property owner, to make the site as safe as possible.

“Kids and Dairy Queen go hand-in-hand, and that’s going to be a street that’s going to be used and I can see kids coming up and running across the street — it’s something you need to take into consideration,” said board member Peter Pare. “The city needs (the additional housing), the Kennebec Valley needs it. My concern with the property is not the apartments, it’s the whole Park Street thing. But necessity is the mother of invention, people are going to have to work through it. Safety is a major issue for us. I wouldn’t stop the project, but I think it needs to have a lot of attention paid to it.”

The board’s approval includes conditions that Park Street will be striped to better designate it as a road, and the city engineer and applicant will take all appropriate steps to ensure the street is as safe as possible for pedestrians and motorists.

The affordable housing development will have one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for tenants who meet maximum income eligibility guidelines. Twenty of the apartments will be rented to households earning 50% of the area median income or less, and 12 units will be rented to households earning 60% of the median area income or less.

Laura Reading, director of affordable housing for Developers Collaborative, which is working on the project, estimated a three-person household would have to have an annual income of $36,100 or less to qualify for a 50% of median income unit, or $43,320 or less for a 60% of median income unit.


She said rents would be between $752 and $1,251 per month, based on MaineHousing standards.

The apartments would be funded by MaineHousing affordable housing tax credits and be built to MaineHousing’s efficiency and construction standards. The complex would include a community room, laundry room, garden beds and a natural playscape area for children, as well as electrical conduits running to the roof for the potential installation of solar panels, and conduit to the parking lot for the potential installation of chargers for electric cars.

It would have 48 parking spaces. The project received a waiver from a city zoning standard of two spaces per unit, to reduce the ratio of parking spaces per unit to 1.4.

Reading said the city of Auburn requires only 1.5 parking spaces per apartment unit and Brunswick requires one space for a one-bedroom unit and two spaces for units with two or more bedrooms. She said the 1.4 spaces per unit is the same ratio of spaces to units as the authority’s nearby housing development on Maple Street, where she said the amount of spaces has been more than enough.

No members of the public expressed any concerns with the proposed new apartment building, which would be in a largely commercial area with no abutting residences.

The building will cover 10,000 square feet and be three stories tall, with a total of 30,000 square feet of floor space.


At their annual goal-setting session this year city, councilors cited increasing the availability of housing as a top priority. The city plans to “sell'” the Park Street property to the housing authority for $1, if the project is funded. Councilors also recently approved a tax increment financing agreement with the housing authority, to return tax revenues generated by the increased valuation of the property back to the authority.

Reading said they expect to learn in November or December whether the project wins financing and, if it does, construction could start early next summer and take about a year.

The Augusta Planning Board will soon review a proposal to redevelop 99 Western Ave. in Augusta. The buildings would be torn down and replaced with a 38-unit apartment building. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

In a unanimous vote Aug. 4, city councilors approved a contract zone agreement needed to advance another project, a proposed 38-unit workforce housing development on Western Avenue.

Matt Morrill of Mastway Development, developer of Stevens Commons in Hallowell, sought and received a contract zoning agreement from the city to waive the zoning requirements for floor ratio standards, which regulate the amount of floor area of developments, as compared to the total lot area. Councilors approved that request and also waived a normally required second vote on that proposal, to help speed the project along. The Planning Board will review the specifics of that project’s site plan.

That proposal will also need a waiver from city parking requirements, as one parking space for each of the 38 units is proposed for the 99 Western Ave. site.

Ward 1 City Councilor Linda Conti, whose ward includes the proposed Western Avenue apartments location, warned parking is going to be an issue in Augusta as more housing is developed. She said the city will need to find solutions to help address the need for parking.

Bob Corey, a member of the Planning Board, agreed the city needs more housing but also said if all the currently approved or proposed projects are built, some of which would provide hundreds of apartments, it could go a long way toward addressing the need.

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