SOUTH PORTLAND — Developers are eyeing the city’s west end for construction of more than 500 apartments.
The possibility of the substantial housing expansion was discussed at a City Council workshop session on Monday.
While no formal proposals have been submitted, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said two developers approached the city in late December.
One development of about 250 units would be along Clarks Pond Parkway, near Home Depot, while another of up to 300 apartments would be near the Sable Oaks Golf Club.
Councilors welcomed the information.
“I think the two projects are fantastic,” Councilor Brad Fox said. “We need these apartments.”
If the projects are completed, they could add more than 1,000 new residents to Maine’s fourth largest city, which currently has a population of about 25,000.
The two apartment potential developments follow approval last fall of Riverbrook apartments, a 118-unit market-rate complex in the Brick Hill neighborhood.
“It’s not a coincidence that when affordable housing became a concern, that developers showed up wanting to increase the housing supply,” Haeuser said. “It is now economically feasible to build multi-family housing.”
The apartments would go into the highly developed western side of the city, which includes the Maine Mall and its surrounding commercial development.
“It means the city is willing to consider more residential housing in the western part of the city where there are a mix of uses,” Haeuser said.
Councilors discussed working on improvements to make the west end more livable, including more green space, less asphalt and more amenities for residents such as a bike path.
Councilor Linda Cohen said she hopes the developers would be interested in helping the city build sidewalks and trails.
Before any apartments can be built, however, the city must change the zoning in the area to a “suburban commercial” zone.
The Clarks Pond proposal would be located at 450 Clarks Pond Parkway, around the bend from Home Depot.
Shawn M. Frank, senior project manager at Sebago Technics, attended Monday’s workshop representing clients who he declined to identify. He said they are interested in potentially building 220 to 280 apartments, but that would depend on how the zoning is amended.
City records indicate the property is owned by the Boulos Co. of Portland.
Haeuser said the apartments would likely be on the lower end of the market-rate spectrum.
“The other residential project expected to come forward, with perhaps over 300 units, is one that would occupy some of the vacant lots and portions of the golf course in Sable Oaks,” Haueser said.
The area is zoned for professional offices, but the Planning Department would like to change the zoning to allow apartments.
The Sable Oaks property is owned by Ocean Properties Hotels Resorts and Affiliates, which also owns the golf course and manages the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks, at 200 Sable Oaks Drive.
Peter N. Connell, an Ocean Properties executive, said they “have a sizable piece of land,” but they have not decided what to do with the property.
“We will make a decision very shortly,” Connell said. “We have not made any formal proposal.”
The Planning Board and council plan on adding inclusionary zoning for the two apartment projects, which would require affordable housing units to make up at least 10 percent of the units unless developers pay a $100,000 per-unit penalty. Developers would also get financial incentives from the city if more than 10 percent of the units are considered affordable.
Haeuser said the next step in the process will be for the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on the zoning amendment, which is scheduled for March 28 at 7 p.m.
Haeuser said the actions needed include a map amendment and a text amendment to remove a density requirement. The inclusionary zoning amendment will also have to be added.
Following the Planning Board public meeting, three more public meetings would be held. The City Council would most likely hold a workshop on the zoning amendment, followed by two more meetings – a first reading, and a second reading with passage.
After the four public hearings and passage of the zoning amendment, the Planning Department would be able to review site plan.
In the meantime, Haeuser said the developers can start the applications with the hope that the zoning proposal gets passed.
“I see this as a win for the city,” Cohen said. “I like mixing incomes, mixing ages together.”
Striped areas indicate parts of Sable Oaks and Clarks Pond in South Portland where zoning changes could allow development of hundreds of new apartments.