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Portland developers seek zoning change for Munjoy Hill housing-commercial project

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Portland developers seek zoning change for Munjoy Hill housing-commercial project

PORTLAND — What is now an auto service center at 155 Washington Ave. could become the newest entry in the burgeoning Munjoy Hill housing market.

Developers Ronald Gan and Jed Rathband are seeking a zoning change for two lots near the corner of Washington Avenue and Cove Street to build East Cove Townhomes.

The change would shift the zone from strictly residential to allow commercial use, specifically in a building planned along Washington Avenue, Rathband said Monday.

“This is the last frontier, so much new development is slated for the neighborhood," he said.

The zoning request had not been placed on a Planning Board agenda as of Monday.

The project would be built just west and down the hill from the 29-unit Munjoy Heights townhouse project under construction by Redfern Properties, off Sheridan and Walnut streets.

Rathband said East Cove Townhomes would feature 14 homes, 10 with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The remainder would have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Two studio condominiums are planned above the proposed retail space. Rathband said prices would begin at $459,000.

"We won't be bumping into (Munjoy Heights') view corridor, but we are benefiting from their 'steam,'" Rathband said of a market where land is scarce and demand is high.

Rathband said starting prices are reasonable for the area.

"This is a catalyst for the neighborhood," he said. "It is an extremely good value for new construction on Munjoy Hill."

Gan and Rathband hold options to buy the 0.30-acre lot occupied by Casale's Sales and Service, and another lot next door. City tax records show the service center building was constructed in 1975. It is now owned by real estate broker Wendy Morse-Baldwin.

The adjoining lot, less than a tenth of an acre, is owned by Maureen Fenton. According to records at the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, Gan and Rathband have agreed to buy Baldwin's lot for $578,000 in an option that expires Oct. 15. The price for Fenton's lot is $280,000. The option expires Aug. 30, 2015.

Rathband is confident the zoning change will be allowed, and is not worried about any possible environmental cleanup on the auto service lot.

"We know it is not contaminated to the extent it would be unmanageable," he said.

Rathband, a developer and real estate broker who lives next to the proposed project, said the land sale prices reflect the current market.

"There is no such thing as getting land cheap on Munjoy Hill," he said. "The price we paid is the going rate."

Gan, who has operated a food truck, also developed Federal Street Townhouses. He was unsuccessful in a previous attempt to build housing on Sumner Court, off North Street.

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