Construction workers have broken ground on Desert Road at the site of what will become Beacon Residences. Sean Murphy / For The Forecaster

FREEPORT — Construction of a 144-unit rental housing project on Desert Road in Freeport is underway.

Officials are welcoming the project and the availability for renters it will bring to town.

“It just provides something that we’re missing in general,” said Town Manager Peter Joseph.

Beacon Residences is located at 6 and 8 Desert Road on property owned by Mast Landing LLC near the town’s Hunter Road public works facility. According to documents from the Freeport Project Review Board, it includes 144 rental units spread throughout six buildings, along with five garage buildings and a clubhouse with a pool.

Devine Capital wants to build 144 residential units off Desert Road in Freeport. Courtesy / Sebago Technics

Joseph said developer Devine Capital received final approval from the board Sept. 16, 2020, when the property was owned by L.L.Bean. Code Enforcement Officer Nick Adams said crews officially broke ground in mid-December 2020.

Adams said via email that his office expects to complete the permitting process “within the next month or so.” Officials referred inquiries on the project’s timeline and value to the developers, who did not respond to inquiries before The Forecaster’s deadline.

The buildings, once finished, will be within a commercial zone. Town Planner Caroline Pelletier said officials approved zoning and subdivision amendments to allow the project to move forward in summer 2019. Pelletier said the town’s comprehensive plan includes promoting the development of different types of housing, including rental properties.

“I do think this is adding to the diversity of housing,” she said.

Keith McBride, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corporation, said he could not cite the exact number of rental properties in Freeport, but said the town lost a significant number of them in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in the downtown area. Once a factory town, he said, residents lived in rental property that was at the time located close to the factories in what now is Freeport’s downtown. That all changed, he said, when the factories closed and retail and commercial giants such as L.L. Bean moved in.

“A lot of the housing areas that were there were leveled for parking, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

Neighbors in January 2020 said they had concerns about whether the project would lead to an increase in traffic. Developers hired Sebago Technics to perform a traffic study in November 2019 to address that issue, according to minutes of the September meeting of the project review board, which approved the project.

Town Engineer Adam Bliss, in a memo to the board about the study, wrote, “Based on our examination of Sebago’s capacity analysis and traffic model, we do not believe that the proposed subdivision will cause unsafe conditions or unreasonable congestion at the development driveway based on the low number of trips the development is expected to generate.”

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