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p-portlandhall-010709 Apartments, demolition planned for former dorm

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PORTLAND — A local development company plans to renovate a former Arts District college dormitory into apartments and retail space.
Bayside Maine purchased the building at 645 Congress St. from the University of Southern Maine in October for $2.2 million. On Dec. 23, Bayside submitted a proposal to the city Planning Department to turn the building into ground-floor retail shops with apartments on the floors above. Three wings that extend toward Deering Street at the rear of the property would be demolished.
Greg Shinberg, a partner in Bayside Maine with state Sen. Justin Alfond, said the project will include about 60 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments. Most of those apartments will be priced at market rates.
About 10 percent will be affordable under the city’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. The 2-year-old ordinance was crafted in part by Alfond and provides review and fee reduction incentives to developers who include affordable units in their plans.
Alfond said that when he worked on the ordinance he did not consider that he may someday use it on a project of his own. This is the second residential development where Alfond and Shinberg are taking advantage of the ordinance. Their 21-unit Sheridan Street condominium building includes two affordable units.
“The other apartments will be market rate for this location …,” said Shinberg, who is also the project manager. “They will be mid-range, mostly.”
The 1.7-acre Congress Street property sits between Avon, Henry and Deering streets. The rear of the property would become a parking lot with 112 spots for tenants and customers of the retail shops, Shinberg said. The plan does not call for any public space, but green space is included in the form of landscaping.
Two connected brick buildings on Congress Street – one five stories
tall and the other six – were built at the end of the 19th century and will get a new facade. Shinberg said exact plans for the facade are preliminary; illustrations submitted to the Planning
Department suggest a mix of red tile, aluminum and
corrugated siding.
The developer will also replace the heating system with a more energy efficient system and replace all the windows.
Before it became a dorm, 645 Congress St. was a series of hotels and
later provided subsidized housing. USM bought the building in 1988 and used it as a dormitory through the spring of 2007. Students from Maine College of Art and Southern Maine Community College lived there, too.
Those two colleges in recent years have opened their own dorms, and USM decided to concentrate its residential buildings in Gorham. 

The Planning Board is scheduled to take its first look at the proposal at a 5 p.m. workshop on Jan. 20.
Bayside Maine hopes to obtain an occupancy permit for the project by fall, according to Shinberg, who said many of the existing dorm rooms were set up as apartments and just need paint and cosmetic updates.
“I’m just ecstatic to be involved in this very important project on Congress Street,” Alfond said.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.

p-portlandhall-010709.jpgGreg Swinberg outside the building at 645 Congress St. that he and state Sen. Justin Alfond hope to redevelop as stores and apartments.

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