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Updated: May 16, 2024

Nonprofit plans 29-unit housing development in Moosehead Lake region

Illustration / Courtesy, Catharine Woodman-Maynard An illustrated map shows the general location of the housing development that the Northern Forest Center proposes to build on Spruce Street in Greenville.

With housing in short supply, the Northern Forest Center has acquired five acres in downtown Greenville and plans to build housing to serve the local workforce. 

The plan calls for 29 units of housing with a mix of multifamily buildings, duplexes and single-family homes.

The timeline for construction will be over the next three years. Cost of the project is estimated to be $11.5 million.

“Local businesses and residents that we talked to identified the need for both long-term rental properties and starter homes to enable young people and families to invest and build equity in the community,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director at the Northern Forest Center.

“Our goal is to develop an appealing neighborhood that fits into and contributes to the fabric of the Greenville community.”

map of Greenville
Illustration by Catharine Woodman-Maynard
This illustrated map shows the general location of the housing development that the Northern Forest Center proposes to build on Spruce Street in Greenville.

The Spruce Street development will be the Northern Forest Center’s sixth housing project and the first to be built from the ground up.

“We found the perfect partner in the Northern Forest Center to develop the Spruce Street property and to provide mid-tier housing in Greenville,” said Margarita Contreni, president of the Moosehead Lake Regional Economic Development Corp., which previously owned the property.

“The Center’s proven track record of partnering with communities with working forests across four states will now benefit Greenville's people and its economy."

The Northern Forest Center is an innovation and investment partner serving the Northern Forest of northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. It has a business office in Concord, N.H., and Maine field staff Millinocket, Bethel and South Portland.

Since its founding in 1997, the Northern Forest Center claims to have secured or leveraged $240 million in investment and helped sustain or preserve 7,720 jobs. In 2023, it had assets of $23.7 million and net income of $1.2 million, according to its website. 

Housing near downtown, schools

In Greenville, Wilson said the Spruce Street site has the advantage of being walking distance from the downtown, the school and other sites. 

“There’s not much land available within a quick walk of downtown, the school and the hospital,” said Wilson. “We’ve been working on this for almost two years with the town and the [Moosehead Lake Regional Economic Development Corp.]. The lack of water and sewer had been a barrier to development on the parcel, so we helped the town secure a $1 million grant to extend those services to the property.”

Over the next year, the Northern Forest Center will work closely with the town to complete the public infrastructure expansion needed to support the housing project. Once the proposed site plan is complete, the Center will present it to Greenville's Planning Board to secure required permits.

“The Center’s proposed project is very important to the economic sustainability of the Greenville area,” said Michael Roy, Greenville's town manager. “The housing project will add value to Greenville and the region with housing opportunities for individuals and families alike, which will support the local businesses with employees. We hope this project will attract families with children, which will increase the enrollment in our school.”

Middle-income housing

Wilson said the nonprofit's work in Greenville focuses on providing housing for the middle-income, year-round workforce and building the sustainability of the Moosehead Lake region's year-round economy.

“Our partners have told us that recruiting and retaining workers is a challenge, and housing is a big part of that. We also know, from experience with other communities, that it’s essential to put residents’ needs front and center, even when recreation and tourism are the backbone of your economy," he said.

The Northern Forest Center has worked in Greenville for more than 12 years, awarding grants for innovation in tourism businesses and storefronts, providing technical and financial assistance to Destination Moosehead Lake, and supporting the community with training and other programs.

“The Northern Forest Center shares our vision for the future of our town, both in terms of economics and our lifestyle here in Greenville,” said Roy. “They’re helping Greenville and Moosehead Lake Region be well positioned for the future.”

Details of construction

Construction plans are still in progress, but Wilson said the nonprofit is pursuing the possibility of using mass timber for the development, which supports the region’s forest economy and delivers carbon benefits.

“Using mass timber products, such as cross laminated timber, has the potential to accelerate construction time while also allowing all the wood’s carbon to be stored for the life of the building, acting as a carbon storage vault,” said Wilson. “By demonstrating new approaches to mass timber construction, we hope this project can help build new markets for wood from Maine and the broader Northern Forest region.” 

Like a lot of seasonal areas of Maine, Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region has a high percentage of second homes and absentee homeowners, which reduces the number of houses available to year-round residents. It also raises concerns about maintaining school enrollment, civic participation and vital services, Wilson said. 

“We’re planning a mix of single- and multi-family homes to provide the ‘missing-middle’ housing needed to attract and retain area workers,” said Wilson.

The Center uses a mix of funding sources to achieve its goal of creating high quality housing that can be rented or sold at rates that median-income earners can afford. Sources include the Center’s Northern Forest Fund — which draws on private investment, donations and grants from public sources — and grants and donations specifically for this project.  

“What sets us apart from commercial developers is that our goal is creating quality housing that year-round residents can afford,” said Wilson. “We’re not driven by profit-making. Donations are a key part of our funding mix, which helps us keep rents and sale prices down for residents."

Other Northern Forest Center projects

The Northern Forest Center previously completed two major property initiatives: In Lancaster, N.H., the $3.8-million redevelopment of the Parker J. Noyes building, which created six middle-market apartments and commercial space for a local nonprofit and food marketplace; and the Millinocket Housing Initiative, which invested more than $1 million to renovate six homes, creating 11 rental units from properties that had been neglected.

Other current projects include redevelopment of the historic Gehring House in Bethel, Maine; a 15,000-square-foot property in downtown St. Johnsbury, Vt.; and in a multi-unit apartment building in Tupper Lake, N.Y.

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