BANGOR, MAINE—People have strong feelings about the old dormitory building at the Bangor Theological Seminary, originally built in 1834.
“I love the long covered front porch. I keep thinking about the residents sitting there in rocking chairs and watching the world go by,” says Erin Cooperrider, development director for Community Housing of Maine, which just finished turning Maine Hall into 28 apartments for low-income seniors, targeted to veterans.
Local officials also speak warmly of the project. “We are overjoyed,” says Rodney McKay, director of community and economic development for the city of Bangor. “It's a great re-use of that building."
Maine Hall is also a good value for taxpayers. For a total development cost of $6 million, or $214,000 per unit, the project preserves a landmark and provides newly renovated, energy-effi- cient, and much-needed seniors housing in a state with the oldest housing stock in the nation.
“We have great need for seniors housing here in Bangor—always have," says McKay. The major hospitals in southern and eastern Maine are all located in Bangor, drawing elderly from across the state.
Maine Hall has a lot to offer these seniors, starting with downtown just being a few blocks away. A service coordinator will help residents connect with services, and nonprofit Community Housing has partnerships with several hospitals and agencies, including the local Veterans Affairs office.
Community Housing also talked historic landmark officials into approving an elevator—important to allow Maine Hall's active adults to age in place. If the residents of the development are able to put off moving into a nursing home for one year on average, that alone could eventually save state and federal medical programs millions of dollars.
The rehabilitated building was carefully designed to meet MaineHousing's Green Building Standards and win a LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. That will make the building significantly cheaper to operate for years to come.
Maine Hall survived years of harsh winters with no insulation in the walls besides brick and plaster. Average January and February temperatures in Bangor hang around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, with records as low as 30 below zero. To help fight the cold, Community Housing sprayed a twoand- a-half-inch layer of closed-cell moisture-resistant insulation onto the inside of the brick walls. But the insulation can't do its job too well—it must allow just enough heat to escape into the walls to keep them from freezing when wet on nights of freezing rain. Otherwise freezing water would expand and crack the soaked brickwork.
The builders also carefully sealed the cracks and gaps where air enters and escapes from the building and installed a mechanical ventilation system.
“It was quite challenging to add all this modern mechanical equipment into this old building,” says Cooperrider.
Maine Hall was financed with $2.5 million in equity from the sale of federal lowincome housing tax credits, sold for $0.65 on the dollar to Boston Capital. Another $1.8 million came from the sale of state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.
The project also received a $1.75 million grant from MaineHousing through its Tax Credit Exchange Program, using funds from other projects that returned their housing tax credits in the wake of the financial crisis.
Development costs have become more of a concern in Maine. Conservative new members of the MaineHousing board of commissioners recently put another Community Housing project, Elm Terrace, under the microscope for projections— now lowered—that it would cost more than $300,000 per unit to develop.