Artist's renderings for the 2.5-acre Commercial Street parcel being developed by Reger Dasco Properties show three six-story buildings. The application calls for more than 257,000 square feet of residential space built atop a parking garage that can accommodate 380 vehicles.

Artist’s renderings for the 2.5-acre Commercial Street parcel being developed by Reger Dasco Properties show three six-story buildings. The application calls for more than 257,000 square feet of residential space built atop a parking garage that can accommodate 380 vehicles. Rendering courtesy of architect David Lloyd. Rendering courtesy of architect David Lloyd

A former lumberyard on Commercial Street soon could be transformed into nearly 300 units of housing, the latest large-scale development project to target the red-hot housing market in and around downtown Portland.

Initial plans filed with the city call for three six-story buildings on the 2.5-acre lot between Maple, Commercial, High and York streets, said Joe Dasco, a principal of Reger Dasco Properties, which is looking to develop the site. The parcel near the city’s western waterfront once housed the Rufus Deering Lumber Co., which closed Nov. 30 after 162 years in operation.

“It’s a great site,” Dasco said. “We think it’s a natural expansion for a city that we all hear needs new housing. It’s a great connection between the West End and the Old Port.”

The project is the latest in a string of housing developments that have been built or proposed around the city in response to a shortage of rental housing that has driven rent prices to historic highs in the past few years. The shortage is especially acute for middle- and low-income earners, while much of the development has been aimed at tenants or buyers with relatively high incomes.

The Commercial Street project is expected to include apartments for rent and condominiums for sale. Monthly rents have not been determined, but sale prices are expected to range from $200,000 to $1 million, depending on the size of the unit.

The Rufus Deering Lumber Co., seen Wednesday, closed Nov. 30 after 162 years of operation in Portland. "It's really sad to see Rufus Deering go," said Jeff Levine, the city's planning and urban development director, "but I think we have an opportunity to have a great development down there." Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Rufus Deering Lumber Co., seen Wednesday, closed Nov. 30 after 162 years of operation in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine said the site, which was valued at more than $2.3 million for tax purposes, presents a great development opportunity, even though it resulted in the closure of one of the city’s oldest businesses.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Levine said. “It’s really sad to see Rufus Deering go, but I think we have an opportunity to have a great development down there.”

THREE BUILDINGS WITH COURTYARDS

Although Dasco said it’s too early to say how much the development will cost, or exactly how many housing units would be included, he said there would probably be about 275 units, although the site could accommodate up to 300 units.

Reger Dasco Properties, a Portland partnership of investors and developers from New York and Massachusetts, will present its proposal Wednesday to the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which will be charged with making design and size recommendations to the Planning Board because the site abuts a historic district.

Development plans for the former Rufus Deering lumberyard site at 383 Commercial St. call for building facades made of bricks, with exterior walls facing the courtyards "primarily fiber cement and a light reflective color." Rendering courtesy of architect David Lloyd

Development plans for the former Rufus Deering lumberyard site at 383 Commercial St. call for building facades made of bricks, with exterior walls facing the courtyards “primarily fiber cement and a light reflective color.” Rendering courtesy of architect David Lloyd Rendering courtesy of architect David Lloyd

According to its application, the proposal calls for 257,270 square feet of residential units and nearly 28,500 square feet of retail. Dasco said the buildings would include a two-story parking garage that could accommodate 380 vehicles.

Renderings of the proposed development, provided by architect David Lloyd, show three separate buildings with courtyards. The building facades are made of bricks, but the exterior walls facing the courtyards are “primarily fiber cement and a light reflective color.”

A RANGE OF PRICES AND RENTS

Dasco said he will be seeking site plan approval for the first phase of development, along with approval of a master development plan, which gives the developer up to 10 years to execute a specific plan. The first phase would be a six-story building with 70 to 80 housing units at the corner of Maple and Commercial streets, Dasco said.

The project is large enough to trigger the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires 10 percent of the units in projects with 10 or more units to be made affordable to middle-income families. Developers can take advantage of a buyout clause in the ordinance by paying $100,000 for every affordable unit that is required but not built. The money goes into the city’s housing trust fund, which provides incentives for affordable housing developments.

Dasco said housing units would likely be a mix of for-sale condominiums and rentals, depending on market demand. He expects a 500-square-foot condo to be priced between $200,000 and $250,000, while a 2,500-square-foot penthouse would likely go for $1 million.

He believes the range of prices will attract a variety of residents. “We think we have something for everyone,” he said.

The development site is right next to a 131-room Courtyard by Marriott completed in 2014, and one street down from where J.B. Brown & Sons is building, in background, 63 apartments in a five-story building with a two-level parking garage at the corner of York and High streets. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The development site is right next to a 131-room Courtyard by Marriott completed in 2014, and one street down from where J.B. Brown & Sons is building, in background, 63 apartments in a five-story building with a two-level parking garage at the corner of York and High streets. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The new proposal suggests Portland’s housing construction boom is going strong even as hundreds of units are either under construction or planned.

This is the fourth development proposal from Reger Dasco in recent years.

The group’s first project was The Bay House near the eastern end of the city’s waterfront. Completed in 2013, it added 85 condos at Hancock and Newbury streets. Its next project was 113 Newbury, which added 39 condos in the same neighborhood.

In 2016, the group received approval for another mixed-use development at 62 India St., which would add about 30 condominiums and three retail stores. That project is in the permitting phase, according to city records.

The multi-phase Commercial Street proposal is the latest ambitious development plan to be considered in Portland, including projects on the western portion of the peninsula. It’s right next to a 131-room Courtyard by Marriott, completed in 2014, and one street down from where J.B. Brown & Sons is building 63 apartments in a five-story building and two-level parking garage at the corner of York and High streets.

OTHER PROJECTS IN THE WORKS

Just up York Street, a developer is planning to build 11 units of housing on a vacant lot at 161 York St. And the city is spearheading a controversial effort to increase building heights on the western waterfront from 45 feet to 75 feet to accommodate a new cold storage facility.

Elsewhere near the waterfront, city planners just approved a master development plan for the former Portland Co. complex that calls for creating an urban neighborhood on the 10-acre site on the eastern waterfront with more than 600 units of housing, as well as offices, retail space, restaurants and a marina.

Two blocks away, a new luxury hotel – a 150-room AC Hotel by Marriott – is under construction. That developer, the Florida-based Portland Norwich Group, LLC, recently submitted plans to build out the rest of that block by adding three additional buildings, ranging in height from 50 to 75 feet, with offices, residential and retail uses.

The amount of development in Portland over the past two years has taken attention away from the so-called “midtown” project, which was seen as a savior for Portland’s housing crisis but has become bogged down with planning and legal issues amid a changing market. Although approved in March 2015 for 445 apartments in three-six story buildings, there is no indication when – if ever – the Florida-based developer, The Federated Cos., will break ground.