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Updated: July 27, 2021

$12.5M historic rehab project in Bangor would expand much-needed affordable housing

building exterior Courtesy / Community Housing of Maine Built in 1912-13 to serve as Bangor High School, 183 Harlow St. was converted to residential apartments and commercial spaces in the 1980s. Renovation is expected to soon start to create 66 units of affordable rental units.

A Portland nonprofit has a proposal underway to create 66 units of affordable rental housing in Bangor.

Community Housing of Maine develops, owns and maintains affordable housing. It proposes to acquire and perform a $12.5 million historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of Schoolhouse Apartments at 183 Harlow St.

The building was constructed in 1912-13 to replace Bangor High School, after much of it was destroyed by the city's Great Fire of 1911. In the 1980s, the property was converted to residential apartments and commercial spaces, Bree LaCasse, a development officer with Community Housing of Maine, told Mainebiz by email.

The high school was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, shortly before it was converted to residential and commercial use.  

The building is approximately 111,000 square feet of finished space with 60 residential units, 45 of which are currently income-restricted. 

“The building does have tenants living in it,” LaCasse said.

The first floor has 11 commercial suites, which are vacant.

Occupied rehab

CHOM has an option to purchase the building, 1.3 acres of land, and 27 on-site parking spaces from the owner, Bangor Development Associates LP.  The project has received the necessary municipal approvals. Robert Baldacci, principal with the Baldacci Group in Cumberland Foreside, is the managing general partner of Bangor Development Associates.

“CHOM expects to acquire the building and begin construction in early fall,” LaCasse said. “The project is an occupied rehab, so current tenants will continue to live in the building while work is being completed over the next 18 months.”

CHOM’s proposal is to rehabilitate 45 apartments and create an additional 21 affordable rental housing units.

Construction will include a Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant entrance, a new elevator, two new laundry rooms, two community rooms, a children’s play space, a telemedicine room, service provider meeting space and tenant storage.

The project will also focus on improvements to accessibility and life-safety systems, addressing deferred capital needs, energy-saving upgrades to lighting and appliances, unit upgrades such as new kitchens, and restoring the original terrazzo and wood floors in common areas and units where possible.

Courtesy / Community Housing of Maine
The “occupied rehab” will include deferred capital improvements, energy-saving upgrades to lighting and appliances, and unit upgrades such as new kitchens.

“The building retains many of the original historic schoolhouse features, such as chalkboards in some of units,” LaCasse said. “These features will remain and will be restored where needed.”

All of the work would be within the existing historic structure.

The final unit mix will be 10 efficiencies, 34 one-bedroom, 18 two-bedroom, and four three-bedroom units.  

Tax credits

The project will utilize low-income housing tax credits through MaineHousing’s 4% Tax Credit Walk-in Program and both state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. 

The estimated construction cost is $12.5 million. 

The development team and funders include TAC Architectural Group in Bangor, Ellsworth’s E.L. Shea Inc. as construction manager, Christopher Closs & Co. as historic consultant, Old Town engineering consultant Carpenter Associates, Richard L. Rollins Engineering, South Portland accounting firm Otis Atwell, Portland law firm Curtis Thaxter, TD Bank, MaineHousing and Portland tax credit syndicator Evernorth. 

CHOM plans to hire South Portland residential property management firm Preservation Management to professionally manage the project, which is named The Schoolhouse.

Acute need

CHOM already owns and manages several projects in the Bangor area, including Maine Hall at 288 Union St. and Village Centre at  266 Center Street in Brewer.

The current owners of Schoolhouse Apartments approached CHOM to ask if the organization would be interested in purchasing the property.  

The downtown building is ideally situated, within walking distance of  amenities such as the public library, schools, restaurants, YMCA, public transportation and outdoor recreation areas, said LaCasse. 

“The downtown location supports CHOM’s commitment to creating vibrant, inclusive and diverse communities in all its housing projects where tenants can easily access the necessities of daily life and can be part of the fabric of the neighborhood,” she said.

Courtesy / Community Housing of Maine
Historic features from the old schoolhouse will be retained in the renovation of 183 Harlow St. in Bangor for affordable rental housing.

 The project supports the city’s goal to promote the development of safe, affordable high-density housing opportunities in core areas served by sidewalks, transit and community services, she noted.

“There is an acute need for quality affordable housing across the state of Maine, including supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness and people with special needs,” she continued. “Housing creates a foundation for stability. Sadly, the need far exceeds the supply.”

The Schoolhouse responds to the need for in-town, affordable rental housing for families in Bangor, according to CHOM’s website. Sixty percent of the units will be made available to residents with very low incomes that are 50% or less of the area median income. The remaining units will be made available to low-income residents who meet 60% or less of the area median income. 

CHOM has several other affordable housing projects in its pipeline: 

Middle Street Apartments in Portland, a new construction 45-unit building serving older adults that is poised to break ground this summer; 

• Ohio Street Apartments in Bangor, an acquisition/rehab supportive housing project that will result in six units for people who are experiencing homelessness and “long-term stayers” that will start construction this summer;  

• Equinox, a new-construction 43-unit project that will serve individuals and families; and Winter Landing, a new-construction 52-unit project that will serve older adults, are proposed as part of the Mercy Hospital redevelopment project in Portland’s West End neighborhood. The Equinox and Winter Landing projects are being developed in partnership with Portland Housing Authority.

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