The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on 62 Spring Street, Auburn

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

Our 2019 Top 7 recipients include:

62 Spring Street, Auburn, Anew Development / Auburn Housing
Founders Place Campus, Bangor, Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers
Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve, LLC
WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Portland, Jonathan S. Cohen – 0 Hancock Street, LLC
Hannaford Center, Hampden, Good Shepherd Food Bank
Southgate, Scarborough, Avesta Housing
Station Square, Gorham, Great Falls Construction

MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award winners at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times.  We look forward to formally recognizing these recipients at a future MEREDA event.

Please join us this week in celebrating 62 Spring Street in Auburn.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  62 Spring Street is a mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Auburn, with 32 affordable units, 9 market rate units, and over 2500 square feet of street-front retail space. 62 Spring Street was developed by Anew Development in partnership with Auburn Housing Development Corporation, a community housing development corporation affiliated with Auburn Housing Authority.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?  

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Ethan Boxer-Macomber became aware of underutilized property available next to the historic Engine House and across from Hannaford Supermarket on Spring Street in Auburn. In 2014 he approached Rick Whiting of Auburn Housing with the concept of maximizing use of the site through the creation of a four- story, mixed -use property which would bring back some of the housing density previously lost to fires and demolitions for parking. AHDC purchased the property with a pre-development loan from the Genesis Community Loan Fund, an underutilized rambling funeral home was demolished, and Anew/AHDC applied for low income housing tax credits multiple times before being awarded credits in the 2017 competition. Instrumental in all of this was the active support of the City of Auburn, which provided 70% Tax Increment Financing & a forgivable $250,000 Fed-Home loan.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  We struggled with cost containment issues, as the original design by Marilyn Leivian of PDT Architects (now CHA) involved expensive covered parking beneath the building structure that needed to be value-engineered out of the design in order to be cost-competitive. Additionally, environmental issues with the site, due to the presence of a former “gasoline alley” nearby required careful investigation and mitigation efforts, including a V-R-A-P with Maine D.E.P. The Auburn Planning Board initially approved the original design in August 2014 after a very positive public meeting was held in a neighborhood church. In 2016, Marilyn Leivian and her team pursued an aggressive schedule to re-design the project, which became the first development approved under the City of Auburn’s new form-based code at the August 2016 meeting of the Auburn Planning Board. In Maine Housing’s 2016 LIHTC competition, 62 Spring Street was finally awarded tax credits and began construction in December 2017.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  The project, already handicapped by a winter start, was hampered by the longest cold snap in decades, and took a while to get moving. However, Benchmark Construction proved up to the task and completed a high-quality building & durable site work in a very tight urban setting.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Even though the delay was frustrating, the response in terms of demand for the units was unprecedented, with over 200 applications received for 41 residential units and lease-up occurring in two months. The development continues to maintain a waiting list of over 200 applications to this day, due to the property’s central location and amenities.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Although the neighborhood has no architectural unity, with a grocery store, a seventies modern bank, a historic fire station and library, and residential buildings, nonetheless 62 Spring Street “fits” the neighborhood in terms of scale, use and appearance, and is a welcome addition to the street.

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