BELFAST: Several years ago, building permits for new condominiums in Belfast were far more plentiful than for single-family homes.
But that was several years ago.
Today, a number of projects that were approved to start construction have not been built. Several others are slowly approaching their design capacity.
And the market that gave rise to Westport Capital Partners’ departure from the city shows no sign of improving anytime soon.
Bob Brickel of Maine McLean Group LLC, which began developing Crosby Manor Estates on Northport Avenue in 1999, said Tuesday that units are selling at prices up to $920,000. But the development has built only 34 of its 56 units, and sales are slow.
Westport Capital Partners cited a declining real estate market as its reason for backing away from the Wakeag Landing project on the waterfront.
City Planner Wayne Marshall said this week two East Side developers will soon be notified their permits could be withdrawn if they don’t start to build.
Ed McCurdy applied to build 18 condos in two phases behind Perry’s Nut House on Searsport Avenue. The Planning Board accepted his concept plan, Marshall said, though McCurdy objected when both the board and the state Department of Transportation recommended he share an entrance with the developers of Joel’s Place, which was to be its neighbor.
The status of the entrance was never resolved, Marshall said, and McCurdy has not been back to the city in nearly eight months.
A half-mile down Searsport Avenue, Leif Weaver received a permit to construct 32 condos in two buildings several hundred feet north of the highway. The sign advertising Harborview Condominiums is nearly overgrown with grass and shrubs despite the permit granted by the Planning Board more than two years ago.
Weaver has an approved site plan, Marshall said, but no building permit. Normally, he said, when there is no action on a project for six months, a 30-day notice is sent to the developer that permits will be withdrawn without quick progress.
On the south side of Searsport Avenue at the outfall of Goose River, Biff Atlass has sold some single-family lots, Marshall said, but there has been no progress on the six-unit condo building that is part of his development.
Across the bridge on the city’s west side, two large transformations from private ownership to condos have had slow sales. Records in the city assessor’s office show the Springbrook condominiums built by MBNA to house employees, have sold two of 46 units since new owners took over last August.
The former Pines apartments on Waldo Avenue, now called Field Crossing Condominiums, have also had two sales to nonowners of the project, the assessor records show.
Tara Mews, an upscale development off Wight Street, has 11 owned and occupied units among the 26 for which it has permits, Marshall said. The project began in 2001 and still has a phase that has yet to be constructed.
Ed Hemmingsen purchased two Main Street storefronts from the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped several years ago with plans to convert them to a boutique hotel. He later changed his mind and converted the spaces to condos.
Marshall said he believes the residential units have been removed from the market and one commercial space has been accounted for.
Brickel of Crosby Manor Estates said there’s been a slight upturn in that project’s fortunes this year, with five sales or resales and “a lot of interest.”
The early units were usually multistory, and the developers have found the market in Belfast is mostly older buyers who want to be on one floor. He said the dock and mooring field that are part of the project’s promotional campaign have been little-used by residents; only one currently has a boat, he said.
Brickel is far from discouraged, though he acknowledges sales have been slower than anticipated. Open House flags flapped in the breeze at the project’s entrance and the bay rippled in the distance, enticements for buyers.
But at Wakeag Landing, where just a few weeks ago developers planned 40 or more condos at prices averaging about $800,000, the seagulls were in charge and dreams of tax revenue and activity were only memories.