$12 million Portland housing proposal up for city approval

October 7, 2013 in Articles

Author: Randy Billings
Publication: Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND – Another 39 units of market-rate housing could soon be in store for the city's India Street neighborhood, a former industrial area nestled between the Old Port and Munjoy Hill.

Work continues on the Bay House development in Portland on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer


The Planning Board on Tuesday will hold a public hearing and vote on the Seaport Lofts, which would bring seven townhouses and 32 single-story units at Hancock and Newbury streets.

The estimated $12 million project is the second phase of the 86-unit Bay House development, which has been under construction over the last year.

Seaport Lofts would be built on what is now a parking lot at 133 Newbury St. The four-story building would consist of brick on the bottom half and metal siding on the top. Forty-three parking spaces would be included on site.

William Conway of Sebago Technics, a consulting firm representing the developer, said the plan being presented Tuesday is the project's fourth iteration. The changes have consisted of tweaks to the overall design, landscaping and stormwater systems, he said.

"In my view, any of the remaining issues are relatively minor in nature," Conway said.

The new units will further bolster the supply of market-rate housing on the east side of the city.

The Bay House development, consisting of 86 condominiums in two buildings at the site of the former Village Cafe is still months away from being finished, but 60 percent of the units are under contract.

Most of the tenants are baby boomers said Sandra Johnson, a broker at Town & Shore Associates, which is marketing the condos.

Half of the tenants are from Maine, she said.

"They're moving out of their suburban homes," Johnson said of the tenants. "They want to live within walking distance of the city's amenities."

Johnson said the most expensive unit at Bay House – a top-floor, three bedroom condo with a water view – has already been sold for $825,000.

One-bedroom condos are being marketed online starting at $295,000. Two bedrooms start at $380,000 and three bedrooms start at $585,000.

Johnson said the southernmost building, consisting of 42 units, should be finished by the end of the year, and the north building, consisting of 44 units, should be finished in January.

Up to six ground-floor retail units are being marketed along Middle Street. Prospective tenants, including a fitness center, are showing interest, but no leases have been signed, said Jennifer Small, an associate broker at Malone Commercial Brokers.

Bay House is 65 feet tall and has elevators and an underground parking garage for 80 vehicles. Parking lifts allowing one vehicle to park above the other are also available to tenants for an additional charge, Johnson said.

Building heights have been a source of concern for India Street residents.

Seaport Lofts will be 50 feet tall, the maximum allowed by zoning. It was originally part of a contract zone that would have allowed an additional 65-foot-tall building. However, that zone was amended last year by the City Council to remove the Seaport parcel.

The Bay House project was originally slated to get underway in 2008, but was delayed when the economic downturn and banking collapse made it impossible for the project to get financing.

The project was restarted last year, after the City Council granted developers an estimated tax break of $2.05 million over the next 20 years.

To receive financing, developers also agreed to turn one of the Bay House buildings into apartments if condo sales fell flat.

That, however, has not been a problem.

"It's been a pleasant surprise how well the units have been received," said Gordon Reger, the chairman and chief executive officer of Reger Holdings LLC, the New York investment firm spearheading the projects.




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