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October 31, 2018

Mixed-use Auburn Spring Street project first under new code

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The mixed-use development at 62 Spring St. in Auburn will have 41 apartments and 2,500 square feet of commercial space.

AUBURN — A 39,485-square-foot mixed commercial and residential building being built at 62 Spring St. is one of the first to go up since the city's adoption of form-based code in May 2016.

The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by February or March, adding 41 workforce and market-rate residential units and 2,500 square feet of commercial space to downtown.

Partners on the development are the Auburn Housing Authority and Anew Development. The commercial leasing agent is Dustin Boutin, of Magnusson Balfour Commercial & Business Brokers of KW Commercial.

The project is cited by the city planning department as the first success of the new form-based code rules.

The rules, adopted based on the 2010 comprehensive plan, put the development emphasis "on building form, simplicity of design elements, regulating what is most important in the end product and avoiding things like street design, landscaping, lighting and building materials," according to the city planning department.

The area that comes under the code covers 100 acres in the city, and the department, on its website, touts the Spring Street project as an example of how the code can work to spur development.

Another project cited by the city is 48 Hampshire St., a 53-unit workforce and market rate apartment project that has been approved. Developers are in the process of applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits and could begin construction in 2019, the planning department said.

Richard Whiting, executive director of the Auburn Housing Authority, one of 62 Spring St.'s developer, said the project and the code fit well. "Congratulations to the Auburn Planning Board for its undergoing a brand new review process and getting it right the first time," he said Wednesday.

He added, "PDT Architects and Sebago Technics deserve credit for their design work performed while in the middle of changing requirements."

L/A downtowns getting attention

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
62 Spring St. (background) is in a downtown neighborhood that includes the Auburn Public Library (at right).

Ground-floor commercial at 62 Spring St. will likely include retailers, a restaurant and/or professional services that would complement the Hannaford supermarket across Spring Street and fit in with the urban, multi-family residential neighborhood, said Boutin.

The four-story building is a short walk to Auburn's downtown center, and is also kitty-corner from the Auburn Public Library. The lot previously housed smaller retail and commercial enterprises, including a Dairy Joy and Dillingham & Sons Memorial Chapel.

The high-energy efficiency building will have one and two-bedroom units.

"Both Lewiston and Auburn are working to make the downtown areas more attractive for pedestrian traffic and increase the amount of downtown venues and destinations," Boutin said.

He cited "the very popular" House of Bacon, Lava, Craft Brew Underground and the event center Festival Plaza.

"62 Spring St. will improve and increase the housing stock of the neighborhood, as well as help to increase consumer demand of downtown businesses," he said.

He added that the ground-floor commercial, with Spring Street entrances, "Will give a company or two the chance to take advantage of 41 residential units above their operation."

Benchmark Construction, of Westbrook, is the builder, and PDT Architects, of Portland, and Sebago Technics, of South Portland, designed the project. Aside from the developers, Maine Housing and Northern New England Housing Investment Fund are funders on the project.

Need for housing spurs development

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Auburn, seen from across the Androscoggin River, recently passed a form-based code to spur development.

"There's a strong demand for good quality housing," said Whiting, of the housing authority. "Waiting lists for our housing programs total over 1,500 applicants."

Besides the Hampshire Street development citing on the planning board's webpage, the board also is considering a 49-unit Market Rate development for the corner of Turner Street and Gracelawn Road.

Whiting said housing is happening in the Lewiston-Auburn area. He cited the recently approved conversion of the former Congregation Beth Abraham synagogue on Laurel Avenue into market rate housing, a proposal in the works for a 200-plus unit market-rate complex targeting health care workers at the former Pineland Lumber Company site along the Androscoggin River, and a multifamily housing complex off Route 196 in Lisbon that was recently completed and rented up.

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