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Maine Lakefront Property
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Sanford Mills to Get a New Life

May 09, 2011 - Sanford – A $3.7 million revitalization grant will be used to create a mixed-use development in the Sanford Mill building on Washington Street that is expected to include commercial space at street level and 40 affordable housing units for seniors on the top tier of the nearly 100-year-old vacant mill building.


The grant to the town of Sanford is part of $5 million awarded to the state of Maine through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which received $970 million through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to aid state and local governments in continued efforts to redevelop abandoned and foreclosed properties.


“The whole vision of the Town Council has been if we can revitalize that core, the mill buildings downtown, there will be a lot of positive spillover into the surrounding neighborhoods,” Town Manager Mark Green said Monday. “I think we received the grant because we had a really good project. The state has been really good about helping us achieve our vision for that part of town.”


Green said the project proposal also had the support of the Sanford Housing Authority, York County Community Action Corp. and York County Shelters Program, all of which were also eligible for neighborhood stabilization funds.


In fact, Green said, even if the specific project does not go through for whatever reason, although he said he thinks it will, the community will still receive the $3.7 million for use by the three housing agencies that serve the town.


The mixed-use development project is now in the hands of the developer, Northland Enterprises LLC of Portland, whose responsibilities include conducting a marketing study and securing approximately $500,000 in private financial backing for the $10.6 million project. The remaining $6.4 million is expected to come from state and federal tax credits.


“Funding is intended to make neighborhoods not only more stable, but also more sustainable, inclusive, competitive and integrated into the overall metropolitan fabric, including access to transit, affordable housing, employers and services,” Michael Baran, director of the Maine Office of Community Development, said in the public notice for the projects posted on the state website in February.


In order to determine eligibility for grant funds, he said, the state used a “winnowing process” to prioritize eligible areas, of which there were initially more than 400 statewide, based on need – the number of foreclosures, delinquent loans, high cost mortgages and unemployment rates – as well as the availability of properties to rehabilitate, a real estate market active enough to ensure buyers for the rehabilitated units, and a high number of low-income residents who would benefit from the project.


“The 51 block group areas that had sufficient needs, available vacant units, real estate activity and low-income households, were then ranked in order of the percentage of low income households, the highest percentage coming first,” Baran said. “The top nine block group areas were in the municipalities of Lewiston, Auburn, Sanford, Waterville and Bangor.”


Built in 1915 and located in the Sanford Mill Historic District, the Sanford Mill has been a primary focus of the town’s efforts to revitalize and transform the mill area, which is adjacent to the town’s central business district. According to the grant application, the plan for the Sanford Mill will result in an innovative, historic, mixed-use development consisting of 40 units of affordable rental housing for seniors, including at least 10 units made available for households at or below 50 percent of the area median income, and 18,000 square feet of commercial space. All affordable units will be preserved under a 90-year land use regulatory agreement.


A local hiring initiative will be employed to award “at least one-third of all construction contracts” to local vendors or contractors whose workforce is made up primarily of Sanford residents, ensuring “that grant funds have the greatest possible economic impact in the target area.”


In addition to the $3.7 million awarded to Sanford, the city of Auburn will receive $650,000 to acquire and rehabilitate a blighted property to create four low- to moderate-middle income housing units, and the city of Bangor will receive $450,000 to acquire and rehabilitate a foreclosed property to create four low- to moderate middle-income housing units.


Once approved, work on the projects is expected to begin as early as July 1, and conclude June 30, 2014.


Andrea Rose, Weekly Observer, May 2011


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