Condos launched in Cape Elizabeth where affordable housing proposal failed
CAPE ELIZABETH — A developer wants to build an 18-unit condominium project, mostly at market price, next to City Hall and the new Village Green, on the site where a 46-unit affordable housing proposal has deteriorated last year amid intense and protracted communal conflict.
The condo project would require the use of parking spaces behind City Hall, which was an aspect of the affordable housing proposal that drew fire from opponents, while other residents of one of the towns Maine’s wealthier people were eager to help solve a housing shortage in the area.
In the scuttled proposal, 37 apartments would have been reserved for low-income tenants, but only two of the proposed condos would be sold with “moderate” household incomes and city-mandated price restrictions. Still, they would be too expensive for most Mainers.
Greg Shinberg of Shinberg Consulting in Portland has submitted preliminary plans to construct two three-story condominium buildings with commercial space on the first floor, as required by downtown zoning regulations. The Planning Council will review the proposal on Tuesday in a workshop session.
Shinberg also asked the city council for permission to use seven parking spaces behind City Hall and build 16 more spaces on a nearby grassy area where a skating rink has been installed for the past two winters. The council will consider Shinberg’s parking request on September 7.
Shinberg faces a major challenge determining how much parking it will need for the two 5,000-square-foot retail spaces at street level. That’s especially difficult in a sluggish commercial real estate market without committed tenants, he said Friday.
“Parking is really the driving force behind these projects,” Shinberg told the council last week. “Parking is an uncertain part as I don’t have an end user for commercial or non-residential use on the first floor.”
Suitable commercial tenants could be a daycare or day spa, he said, “(but) I just don’t know what my parking needs will be for the first floor.” Commercial tenants with greater parking needs would not be viable, he said.
Shinberg said he felt little risk in housing construction given current demand, but faced “big risk” in developing commercial space without contracted tenants.
Shinberg is a well-known developer in southern Maine whose projects include the 110,000 square foot InterMed office building on Marginal Way in Portland. He also developed the Village Green site in Cape Elizabeth and the adjacent 7,000 square foot Two Lights Dental office building for Dr. David Jacobson.
Shinberg had submitted few details and no architect’s rendering of the condo project on Friday. In memos to city officials, he said he entered into a buy-and-sell agreement with Jacobson to buy two lots at the back of the Village Green, which fronts Ocean House Road (Route 77). The two lots total nearly 2 acres.
“I love the property,” Shinberg told the council. “He has great outward appeal.”
In November, The Szanton Co. of Portland, led by Nathan Szanton, suddenly dropped its proposal to build the 46-unit subsidized apartment complex on the same lots. Szanton is also a well-known developer who specializes in building and managing affordable housing.
For several months opponents had fought the scheme, called Dunham Court, and by late autumn had collected enough signatures to force a referendum on council-approved zoning changes that would have allowed Szanton to build the complex. Council approved Amendments 5-2 so the project could exceed height and density limits and not be required to have commercial tenants on the first floor.
The council has scheduled the November 8 referendum, in the next general state election, to determine whether zoning changes should be enacted and applied to future downtown development.
Supporters of Dunham Court believed the town center was exactly where an affordable housing project should be, close to existing sewer lines and other public infrastructure and within walking distance of the local supermarket, pharmacy, public schools, community center, police and fire station, and Thomas Memorial Library. But the $13.5 million project has drawn significant pushback from naysayers who have criticized its location, size, subsidized funding through MaineHousing and its request for tax relief from the city.
Some also objected to Szanton’s request to build a shared parking lot behind City Hall. By contrast, no one spoke out against Shinberg’s similar request to the board last week – a difference that was pointed out at the meeting by former adviser Jamie Garvin, who was chairman last year and backed Dunham. Short.
Garvin called the discrepancy “blatant hypocrisy,” though he pointed to his support for shared parking behind City Hall because he and other city officials believe parking in the area has been overbuilt. for current uses.
“What is truly unfortunate is how clearly this highlights the lost opportunity that resulted from the proposed Dunham Court scheme being crushed,” Garvin told the council. “It is unfortunately a completely predictable outcome.”
Shinberg said it was too early to say how much the condos would sell for, but he told council last week they would be priced below Maxwell Woods, a luxury development off Route 77 near the South Portland line where freestanding single-story condos with garages have recently sold for up to $900,000.
A site plan of Shinberg’s Cape Elizabeth condo project shows two buildings connected by a central elevator and a common covered sidewalk and entrance. Residences would be on the second and third floors. A concept plan shows four 500-square-foot one-bedroom condos and 14 two-bedroom condos ranging from 750 to 1,200 square feet.
Two of the condos — one one-bedroom and one two-bedroom — would be sold with “moderate” household income and city-mandated pricing restrictions, city planner Maureen O’Meara said. Eligible buyers could have a maximum family income of $111,600 and the maximum sale price would be $378,781, at current rates. The median household income in Maine is $59,489, less than half the median of $127,363 in Cape Elizabeth.
Dunham Court would have been the first affordable housing project in Cape Elizabeth in 50 years, at a time when affordable housing became extremely scarce in Cape Elizabeth, throughout Greater Portland and beyond.
In 2021, MaineHousing considered the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Greater Portland to be $1,592. The agency defines “affordability” as housing that costs no more than 30% of household income.
In Cape Elizabeth, renters needed an annual family income of $92,000 to rent a median-priced two-bedroom apartment, which costs about $2,300 a month including utilities, according to MaineHousing. The prospective homeowners needed an annual household income of $174,000 to purchase a home at the median price of $625,000.
In Dunham Court, 80% of flats are said to have been reserved for households with incomes below 60% of the area’s median income of $42,000 for one person, $48,000 for two people and $54,000 for three people .
Nine apartments would have been rented at market price. Subsidized rents, made possible by government funding, would have been $1,080 for one bedroom, $1,299 for two bedrooms, and $1,495 for three bedrooms; market rents would have been $1,495 for one bedroom and $1,695 for two bedrooms.
Szanton declined a request to discuss the new proposal for the site.
Cynthia Dill, a town center resident who led the opposition at Dunham Court, said she wished Shinberg well but wondered why he needed 23 more parking spaces.
“(I) support downtown development in accordance with our zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan,” Dill said in a written statement Friday.
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