A large condominium project proposed for Austin Street is the latest in a series of development plans in Westbrook, and at 96-units, could add to the public pushback about the city’s rapid growth spurt.
The project will be introduced to the Westbrook Planning Board during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 7 p.m.
The project, at 388 Austin St., a quiet, dead-end road near Pride Street, would take up 29 acres of open land behind a few residential properties. The property was formerly owned by resident Ellen Fitzgerald, and a purchase-and-sale agreement with real estate investor Michael Messer and developer Tim Ly of MaineLy Property Management was reached.
The preliminary sketch plan calls for eight, two-story buildings, each with 12 units. The units are planned to be up to three bedrooms.
Ly said Wednesday that, based on the property and the current market, he hopes for a successful project there, but also said he’s aware of the public’s concern for other recent development. The property is bisected by a Central Maine Power easement, and according to the sketch plan, the buildings would be located to the south of the power lines. A portion to the north would remain open space.
“It’s a nice piece of land there, and we’re trying to work with the civil engineers and the city to see what we can do with it,” he said.
Ly has operated MaineLy Property Management and offshoots such as MaineLy Realty for 15 years, and says he’s confident his company will create and maintain a worthwhile project in Westbrook. The company manages more than 500 single-family rentals, multi-family homes and condo units in Greater Portland.
“We have it down,” he said, referring to managing real estate of all types.
He said he’s leaning toward condos for Austin Street rather than rental apartments because he likes the idea of individual ownership. He kept an eye on nearby projects such as the Winslow Green condos at the former site of Prides Corner Elementary School. That project, which has sold quickly, is 46 condominium units in 23 buildings. According to its website, only 18 of the units are still available.
“We research everything,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t.”
City Planner Jennie Franceschi said Tuesday’s meeting will be the first time Planning Board members see the project details, and even those are preliminary.
The discussion on increased development has been ongoing in Westbrook, especially as new projects continue to come forward and concerns for school overcrowding persist. Mayor Colleen Hilton has said that is one of the main reasons she brought back Bill Baker, the former assistant city administrator, as a temporary consultant for economic development. Baker will work on behalf of the city with developers such as Jeffrey Gove at Dirigo Plaza and Jim Howard of Priority Real Estate, who is looking to develop the Twin Falls Golf Course property.
On Tuesday, there are also scheduled workshops for a four-unit residential subdivision on 855 Bridgton Road, a five-unit subdivision at 645 East Bridge St., and the proposed Phase 2 at Blue Spruce Farm, which has come into much criticism from residents.
According to sketch plan documents for the Austin Street project, submitted to the Planning Office by civil engineering firm Terradyn Consultants, the land is zoned Residential Growth Area 2, where multi-family dwellings are permitted as a special exception.
Michael Tadema-Wielandt, an engineer from Terradyn, said Wednesday that next week will simply serve as an introduction to the project, where board members can identify any potential “issues or concerns.”
Public comment is also allowed during workshop sessions.
The zoning at Austin Street is the same as the Blue Spruce Farm site, where a discussion point from a group of neighbors has been the use of special exceptions. However, a special exception is described as a permitted use in the zone, but gives the Planning Board more say over its use in specific areas.
Franceschi said the discussion on Blue Spruce Farm will be split into a few workshops due its size, at 303 units. She said the workshop will include responses to many of the comments made on the project thus far, feedback from the city’s Recreation and Conservation Commission, and an update on the school impact study.
Tadema-Wielandt said all those involved with the Austin Street project are well aware of the discussion surrounding Blue Spruce Farm, and also aware of the current market and housing need.
“This is going to be a big project for that neighborhood,” he said. “The defeciency in rental units and condo units has spurred this.”
An aerial photo shows the land surrounding 388 Austin St., where a 96-unit condo complex is proposed.
The condominiums at Winslow Green, the former site of Prides Corner Elementary School, are closing in on completion. The 46 units have been selling quickly, and the developer of a proposed condo project on Austin Street has been paying attention.