Despite objections, Portland City Council OKs tax break for Carleton St. housing

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PORTLAND — A new tax increment finance zone and two allocations of federal funding will help three city housing projects get underway.

City councilors on Monday approved establishing the TIF for Avesta Housing for its proposed 37-unit housing project at 17 Carleton St. in the West End.

Councilors also allocated $564,000 in Home Investment Partnership Program funds for housing projects at 58 Boyd St. in Bayside and at the former St. Joseph’s Convent at 605 Stevens Ave.

The Avesta decision came despite objections aired during the City Council meeting. 

“I think of this as a giveaway to an aggressive developer,” West Street resident John Penrose said of the TIF that will allow Avesta Housing to recapture about $700,000 in increased tax valuations for the 22-year TIF term.

Penrose and former Councilor and Mayor Anne Pringle also questioned why Avesta would receive 65 percent of the TIF funds, and why the City Council was acting on the request before the Planning and Historic Preservation boards had given the plans full review or approval.

City Planning & Urban Development Director Jeff Levine said the request was part of a two-track approach that would allow Avesta to maximize possible low-income housing tax credits extended by the Maine State Housing Authority. 

In order to allow the full public comment time needed by the state before approving the TIF plans, councilors had to act before the site plan is approved.

The 37-unit building, to include 12 efficiency units, 23 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units, would be built on a parking lot Penrose and other neighbors suggested may have been set aside for the neighborhood in Planning Board decisions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Levine said some records have been lost, but those that remain do not show the lot was to be preserved.

Councilors Justin Costa and Jon Hinck said they preferred to have plans approved before granting the TIF, but Levine noted that if the site plan does not get approved, the TIF will be dissolved.

Avesta Development Officer Drew Wing said the TIF funds are critical.

“If we did not have the TIF the project would not move forward at the levels we planned,” he said.

The HOME funding is part of the allocation the city receives annually from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

Other projects

City-based Developers Collaborative will receive $426,000 for the conversion of the former St. Joseph’s Convent into 88 units to be marketed to residents who are 55 or older; 66 will be reserved for people making 50 percent to 60 percent of the area median income.

The convent conversion plan is part of a wider project to develop the property by Sea Coast Management. The developers were granted a zone change for the rest of the project, but scaled back the scope to address concerns from neighbors about the number of buildings and possible traffic impact.

The Boyd Street housing work will receive $138,000 for 48 units and will be overseen by the Portland Housing Authority. Plans call for half to be one-bedroom units, 12 to be three-bedroom units, eight two-bedroom units, and four efficiency units.

PHA Executive Director Mark Adelson said Tuesday the project will be across the street from the Bayside Anchor project on the site of current PHA offices and a Head Start program. Those will be shifted to Bayside Anchor.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Portland city councilors approved a TIF district for an Avesta Housing project to be built on part of this parking lot at 17 Carleton St.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.