South Portland developers seek zoning change to build 120 apartments at Brickhill

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The developers of Brickhill are proposing construction of 120 market-rate apartments if the city agrees to change zoning in the neighborhood.

The Planning Board unanimously recommended the proposed zoning change Tuesday night. The recommendation must be vetted by the City Council before going back to the board for final site plan review and approval.

The zoning amendments would change the zone from professional office use to residential use, and increase the number of residential units allowed by 35. 

The proposal was presented by Kevin Bunker, co-founder of Developers Collaborative, and local developer Richard Berman. Both helped design and build Brickhill, which sits in a conditional and limited commercial use district at 675 Westbrook St.

Berman is also a member of the ad hoc Affordable Housing Committee, which was formed earlier this year in response to residents’ concern over the shortage of affordable housing. 

The zone now allows for no more than 300 residential units, and 215 have already been constructed, according to the application. The zoning change would allow 335 units.

Located on the open wetland area bordered by the Portland International Jetport, the Maine Medical Center building known as “The Castle,” and Opportunity Alliance, Bunker and his team presented a plan that showed 10 separate apartment buildings, each with 12 units. 

While the neighborhood’s Heron Cove condominiums are available at market rate for ownership, the 120 additional apartments being proposed would be the neighborhood’s first market-rate rentals, Bunker told Planning Board members Tuesday night.

There are one-bedroom units slated to be between 1,000 and 1,100 square feet, and two-bedroom units of 1,200-1,300 square feet. 

The neighborhood already includes low-income housing, senior and family affordable housing rentals, and market-rate condos. 

Current market rates for rental housing are about $1 per square foot, Bunker said, meaning rent for the proposed apartments would be $1,000-$1,300 a month. 

The proposal comes at a time when housing is a growing issue in greater Portland. To help remediate the problem, the Affordable Housing Committee met for the first time last month to discuss potential solutions to the general shortage of housing in the city

Planning and Development Director Tex Haueser, who reported earlier in the week that two other potential developers are interested in building more housing in the western part of the city, told the board at the April 12 meeting that “the market seems to be responding” to the “lack of sufficient housing in the region.”

While there are many contributing factors, the only “real way to address” the need for more affordable and market rate housing is to “increase the supply,” Bunker said Wednesday morning. 

While tax credits for affordable housing are appealing to developers, they’re “only ever going to be a drop in the bucket of the need,” he said, because the state only grants about 200 a year. 

To increase supply, Bunker said, municipalities can also increase allowed density. 

While a date hasn’t been set, the City Council is expected to review the Brickhill proposal in a first reading in May. If Bunker and his team are able to acquire the proper permits before summer, construction could begin as soon as August, he said. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA. 

Brickhill at 675 Westbrook St., South Portland, could have 120 new market-rate apartments if the city grants a zoning change sought by developers.

An additional 120 one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments are being proposed for an undeveloped portion of the Brickhill neighborhood in South Portland, which would bring the total number of residential units to 335.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.