$1.3M eyed to redevelop Portland properties

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PORTLAND — City planners expect to receive more than $1.3 million from the first federal stimulus package to buy and redevelop abandoned or foreclosed properties.
The funding is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which seeks to stem the negative impact abandoned and foreclosed properties can have on valus of surrounding properties.
About $19.6 million in funding from the Economic Recovery Act of 2008 has been sent to the state’s Office of Community Development, which will distribute the money.
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing and vote on accepting the funds for Monday, April 7. From there, the Housing Committee will likely send specific recommendations to the full council.
The funds, however, must be committed within 18 months of acceptance.
City Councilor David Marshall, who serves on the housing committee, said Portland has not experienced the high foreclosures rate seen in some other cities, which has allowed the city to be a little more creative with its projects.
Of 15 properties that are eligible for stabilization funds, three have emerged as likely recipients, including development of the former Marada Adams Elementary School.
Avesta Housing has proposed redeveloping the former school into more than 40 owner-occupied condominiums called Beckett Green, but funding for the project has been uncertain. The company asked the city for a tax break for the next 30 years to help finance the process, but the stimulus funds could reduce that need.
Meanwhile, the city is also eying 189 Brackett St. in the West End and a burned out building at 35 Mayo St.
Marshall said the committee is trying to focus on projects in some of the poorest areas in the city.
“Mayo Street is in East Bayside, which is absolutely the poorest area in area in the city, according to the census.” he said.
T.J. Martzial, director of Portland’s housing and neighborhood services division, said the city is looking into demolishing the burned-out two-story structure on Mayo Street. The city would likely issue a request for development proposals for the 2,600-square-foot property, asking for a first-floor community space with at least two owner-occupied condominium units above.
Martzial said the redevelopment of 189 Brackett St., between Reiche Elementary School and the Pine Street, is already generating interest from local developers. Martzial said if private developers bought the property, they could still seek development funding from the city.
The 1 1/2-story, 1,800-square-foot building and 2,500-square-foot parcel on Brackett Street are valued at $137,000, according to city records.
Martzial said the current work plan indicates that about 73 percent  of the funding ($950,000) will be spent on redevelopment, 12 percent ($156,000) on property acquisition , 10 percent ($130,000) on administration and 5 percent ($65,000) on demolition.
Although the three projects have emerged as likely recipients, Martzial said the project list could change if any of the targeted properties are sold or other opportunities emerge.
“It’s kind of moving target,” Martzial said. “We’re not used to this fluidity in the process.”
“There will be plenty of public input about what projects move forward,” he added.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net.