Penobscot County commissioners met Tuesday in a closed-door session with Penquis Tuesday to discuss selling the former YMCA building on Hammond Street for an affordable housing project.
Penquis, a community action organization based in Bangor that serves low-income residents, would construct affordable housing units on the site.
In December, commissioners awarded the non-profit $2.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, most of which will be used to convert a former school in Millinocket into affordable and workforce housing.
If Penquis purchases the former YMCA building, it will tear down the aging, dilapidated structure and construct a new apartment building, said Jason Bird, housing development director and MaineStream finance director for the organization.
It would be its third recent project in Bangor. The organization is also converting the Pine Tree Inn, located across from a homeless camp near Bangor International Airport, to efficiency apartments and constructing a senior housing project behind the Mary Snow School on Broadway.
“It’s too early to tell how many units might be built there (at the Y site), but as many as possible would be the goal,” he said after meeting in executive session with commissioners.
Bird said low-income housing coupled with units slightly below market price would be a good use of the property.
Commissioners last year gave up on the idea of repurposing the building after a report concluded that it would be more prudent to tear down the brick building that has fallen into disrepair. Bricks are falling off one corner of the building on the Court Street side. Temporary fencing has been put up to ensure no one is injured by them.
The county quietly put the property on the market earlier this year seeking out organizations such as Penquis that might be able to ease Bangor’s affordable housing crisis. Commissioners most likely will meet with others interested in buying Bangor’s Young Men’s Christian Association building, first constructed in 1891 and designed by Wilfred E. Mansur, a well-known Bangor architect. Mansur also designed the historic Penobscot County Courthouse, where county offices are located.
County Administrator Scott Adkins said earlier this month that there is no specific asking price for the building, but commissioners hope to get back the $825,000 they paid for it in 2017.
The county bought the building after the city condemned it, with the idea of renovating it to house women inmates and to use it as an intake area. That proved to be too expensive because of the building code requirements for jails.
Commissioners then decided the site should be used for a modern 200- to 300-bed, eight-story jail. That idea was abandoned after public outcry over the preliminary plans that were shared with the Bangor City Council.
In addition to its plans in Bangor, Penquis will use the $1.25 million of the $2.2 million it received in ARPA funds from the county to convert the Aroostook School on Spring Street in Millinocket into 10 units of workforce housing and build from 36 to 48 units on the property for senior housing.
In addition to that project, about $557,000 is being used to upgrade housing in need of repairs. Another $370,000 is going to replace four homes that are considered uninhabitable.