Zoning change on track for new South Portland apartments

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A proposal to build 120 market-rate apartments in the Brickhill neighborhood received preliminary approval from the City Council in a workshop Monday night. 

The zoning amendment for 675 Main St. was recommended to the council by the Planning Board in April. The council will next hear a first reading of the proposal.

Bordered by the Portland International Jetport, the Maine Medical Center building known as “The Castle,” and Opportunity Alliance, the zone now allows no more than 300 residential units. Two hundred and fifteen units have already been constructed, according to the application submitted by Riverbrook Properties.

The proposed zoning change would allow for an additional 35 units, for a total of 335. The project would include 10 buildings, each with 12 one- or two-bedroom apartments of between 1,000 and 1,300 square feet. 

While the neighborhood’s Heron Cove condominiums are sold at market rate, the 120 additional apartments being proposed would be the neighborhood’s first market-rate rentals. The neighborhood already includes low-income housing, senior housing and affordable housing.

Rocky Risbara, of Risbara Brothers Construction, who is working on the project with Kevin Bunker, co-founder of Developers Collaborative, told councilors the developers believe there’s a demand for good housing at market rate.

With heat and hot water included, the one-bedroom units would rent for between $1,000 and $1,100, and the two-bedrooms would cost around $1,400, Risbara said. 

“That’s considered maybe affordable to some and not affordable to others, but we feel there’s a definite need for it,” he said. 

Councilors agreed that there’s a need for all types of housing, including market rate. 

“We need it at all different levels, but that doesn’t mean (you have) to address them all,” Councilor Claude Morgan said. “There are lots of shortages of houses for different folks.”

The city’s ad hoc Affordable Housing Committee, which convened earlier this spring, is considering measures the city can adopt to meet the demand, while also protecting the rights of tenants and landlords. 

An option discussed by members of the committee would be standards that provide incentives for developers to set aside some market-rate units and offer them at affordable rates.

“It would be nice if you could find a way to have 5 or 10 or 15 percent be affordable, but all we can do is ask you to look at that,” Mayor Tom Blake said. 

“We do not have any requirements; we are at the mercy of the developers to make a percent affordable,” he said. “We are looking at that, but we’re not there yet.”

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

A zoning change would allow an additional 120 market-rate apartments at Brickhill in South Portland.

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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.