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Northern Forest Center Plans 29-Unit Housing Development

GREENVILLE, MAINE: The Northern Forest Center (Center) has purchased five acres of land in downtown Greenville and plans to build housing to serve the local workforce. 

The housing project plan seeks to develop 29 units of new housing that incorporate a mix of multi-family buildings, duplexes, and single-family homes to be built over the next three years. The Center hopes to use the project to demonstrate the environmental and economic benefits of utilizing mass timber construction. 

Community Partnerships

“Local businesses and residents that we talked to identified the need for both long-term rental properties and starter homes to enable young people and families to invest and build equity in the community,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director at the Center. “Our goal is to develop an appealing neighborhood that fits into and contributes to the fabric of the Greenville community.”

“We found the perfect partner in the Northern Forest Center to develop the Spruce Street property and to provide mid-tier housing in Greenville,” said Margarita Contreni, president of the Moosehead Lake Regional Economic Development Corporation (MLREDC), which previously owned the property. “The Center’s proven track record of partnering with communities with working forests across four states will now benefit Greenville's people and its economy. I am delighted that all the hard work put in by the MLREDC and the Center teams has paid off!”

The Spruce Street development will be the Center’s sixth housing project and the first to be built from the ground up. “There’s not much land available within a quick walk of downtown, the school, and the hospital,” said Mike Wilson. “We’ve been working on this for almost two years with the town and the EDC. The lack of water and sewer had been a barrier to development on the parcel, so we helped the town secure a $1-million grant to extend those services to the property.”

“The Center’s proposed project is very important to the economic sustainability of the Greenville area,” said Town Manager Michael Roy. “The housing project will add value to Greenville and the region with housing opportunities for individuals and families alike, which will support the local businesses with employees. We hope this project will attract families with children, which will increase the enrollment in our school.”

Over the next year, the Center will work closely with the town to complete the public infrastructure expansion needed to support the housing project. Once the proposed site plan is complete, the Center will present it to Greenville's Planning Board to secure required permits. “The Town is excited to collaborate with the Center on this much-needed housing project,” said Roy. “The Center has a proven record of building quality housing and helping Maine communities with projects that help boost the local economy and provide opportunities for people.”

Wilson said the Center’s work in Greenville focuses on providing housing for the middle-income, year-round workforce and building the sustainability of the Moosehead Lake region's year-round economy. “Our partners have told us that recruiting and retaining workers is a challenge, and housing is a big part of that. We also know, from experience with other communities, that it’s essential to put residents’ needs front and center, even when recreation and tourism are the backbone of your economy.”

The Center has worked in Greenville for more than 12 years, awarding grants for innovation in tourism businesses and storefronts, providing technical and financial assistance to Destination Moosehead Lake, and supporting the community with training and other programs.

“The Northern Forest Center shares our vision for the future of our town, both in terms of economics and our lifestyle here in Greenville,” said Roy. “They’re helping Greenville and Moosehead Lake Region be well positioned for the future.”

Housing Plans

Construction plans are still in progress, but Wilson said the Center is pursuing the possibility of using mass timber for the development, which supports the region’s forest economy and delivers carbon benefits. “Using mass timber products, such as cross laminated timber, has the potential to accelerate construction time while also allowing all the wood’s carbon to be stored for the life of the building, acting as a carbon storage vault,” said Wilson. “By demonstrating new approaches to mass timber construction, we hope this project can help build new markets for wood from Maine and the broader Northern Forest region.” 

“We’re planning a mix of single- and multi-family homes to provide the ‘missing-middle’ housing needed to attract and retain area workers,” said Wilson, who added that the project cost is estimated at $11.5 million. Greenville’s high rate of second homes and absentee homeowners has left few options for locals or people trying to move to the community, raising concerns about maintaining school enrollment, civic participation, and vital services. 

The Center uses a mix of funding sources to achieve its goal of creating high quality housing that can be rented or sold at rates that median-income earners can afford. Sources include the Center’s Northern Forest Fund – which integrates private impact investments, donations, and grants from public sources – and grants and donations specifically for this project. To support the project, contact Director of Development Kristen Sharpless at [email protected].

“What sets us apart from commercial developers is that our goal is creating quality housing that year-round residents can afford,” said Wilson. “We’re not driven by profit-making. Donations are a key part of our funding mix, which helps us keep rents and sale prices down for residents."

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The Northern Forest Center is an innovation and investment partner serving the Northern Forest of northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. In 2017, the Center expanded its programming to include redeveloping underused properties to enable young professionals and families to find homes and contribute to rural communities.

 

The Center previously completed two major property initiatives: In Lancaster, N.H., the $3.8-million redevelopment of the Parker J. Noyes building, which created 6 middle-market apartments and commercial space for a local nonprofit and food marketplace; and the Millinocket (Maine) Housing Initiative, which invested more than $1 million to renovate six homes, creating 11 quality rental units from properties that had been severely neglected.

Other current projects include redevelopment of the historic Gehring House in Bethel, Maine; a 15,000-square-foot property in downtown St. Johnsbury, Vermont; and in a multi-unit apartment building in Tupper Lake, NY.