A local developer is moving forward with plans to build 140 condominiums for seniors in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood.

The Developers Collaborative has filed site plans with the city to build the market-rate condos in four separate five-story buildings at the former Catherine McAuley High School, which is located between Stevens Avenue and Baxter Woods, a bird sanctuary with recreation trails.

The project at 65 McAuley Way was included in a master development plan approved in 2016. But Kevin Bunker, a principal at Developers Collaborative, said he’s looking to amend that master plan to include a grassy common area in the middle of the buildings, where traffic circulation was originally proposed. The amendment would also move some surface parking farther away from Baxter Woods.

“Everything else is still the same with a few tweaks here and there,” Bunker said.

One of those tweaks includes increasing the size of the units.

Although the condos will be mostly for people age 55 and older, the buildings will contain a mix of two- and three-bedroom units. Bunker said that was done because there was strong demand for larger units in the previously built 21-unit building, so residents could keep and store more of their belongings, even though they were retirees looking to downsize.

“One person bought two and combined them into one,” Bunker said. “The market was saying the bigger units were the ones that people wanted.”

The original proposal to redevelop the campus generated significant opposition. Some neighbors concerned about the way it could change the character of the quiet neighborhood formed a group called Preserve Deering Neighborhood. It’s not clear if there will be significant opposition to this phase. Representatives from the Deering Center Neighborhood Association did not respond to requests for interviews to discuss the proposal.

Two of the proposed buildings will have 28 units each, while the other two will have 42 units each. All of the buildings will be five stories, or 55 feet tall, with ground-level parking under each.

Christine Grimando, the city’s urban planning and development director, said a virtual neighborhood meeting, via Zoom, has been scheduled for July 28 and the project could undergo its first Planning Board review on Aug. 10. She noted the need for all kinds of housing in the city.

“I welcome the addition of new housing off-peninsula, and the diversity it will add to Portland’s overall housing supply,” Grimando said. “I’d also add that it’s not a surprise, since the application is in a location that was approved for new housing as part of a 2016 Master Development Plan. I’m glad to see the larger vision for the site continue to move forward.”

Previous projects at the Seacoast at Baxter Woods included the historic restoration of the Motherhouse into 88 affordable studio apartments for people over the age of 55. In addition to the previously built 21-unit condo building, the former school building is being converted into office space, a day care, a fitness center and café.

Bunker said he hopes to break ground on the estimated $71 million project in the spring. He said it would take three to four years to finish the project, which also includes a walking trail around the perimeter of the property.

The goal from the beginning, Bunker said, was to create a new community at the former school.

“It’s not just a bunch of buildings – it’s a place,” he said. “There are all these pieces of community that are about to come together and it’s interesting and exciting to see it go from a piece of paper and sketch to this real thing that people are using.”

Bunker said the sales prices of the units would range from $532,000 for a 1,163-square-foot unit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms to $732,000 for a 1,607-square-foot unit with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The majority of the units in the completed condo building, he said, were purchased by in-state retirees. He wasn’t sure whether he would see more out-of-state buyers this time around, which has been a trend during the coronavirus pandemic. The one nonbinding letter of interest for one of the new condos came from an out-of-state buyer, he noted.

“Hopefully they go quick,” Bunker said. “It amazes me the market keeps going.”

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