Sep. 15—Today is a bunch of Buzz bites, or Buzz-lite: A handful of new projects and commercial permits. An Augusta expansion for one Lewiston nonprofit.
And, lastly, how happy are we in Maine? 37%-happier-than-West-Virginia happy.
First up: Let's build.
The $1 million, 35,388-square-foot expansion of the FedEx distribution facility at 380 River Road in Lewiston is underway, with the project permitted in August.
The expansion went in front of the Planning Board last April. City Planner Doug Greene said in a memo at the time that the company hoped to increase operational capacity ahead of the holiday season.
The facility employs up to 200 people year-round and up to another 100 seasonally. The building is owned by Gendron Realty.
The Lewiston Planning Board this week unanimously greenlit Raise-Op's second new housing cooperative, a nine-unit building at 84 Walnut St.
Greene said it was the first project reviewed under new design standards approved last year. Raise-Op requested a waiver that the project not have to meet a requirement to have 25% of all street-facing facade be transparent windows.
"The board really loves the look of the building and after hearing more details of why some of the windows are reduced in size — heat and cooling reduction — the board approved the waivers and the plan," Greene said.
Cooperative Manager Craig Saddlemire said the $2.6 million project will be developed concurrently with another recently-approved nine-unit project at 198 Blake St.
With financing details still to firm up, he said the hope is to start construction in March 2022 and begin leasing both in January 2023.
"(We are) proud to have our project be a test run for the new design district standards, which we believe will greatly enhance people's experience of the new buildings," Saddlemire said, noting that the plan for 198 Blake St. met the same standards before they were officially adopted. "We think it raises the bar for future development in a really positive way, and also honors the historic architecture of our community."
On Monday night, the Lewiston Planning Board also recommended the City Council approve zoning changes involving 277, 289 and 299 River Road.
Brian Langlais, president of Ironhouse Engineering, which owns all three properties, said Wednesday that rezoning to industrial use would help him deal with boundary and setback issues.
The consulting company already has a major project underway renovating a former landscape business there into office space to fit Ironhouse's growing company.
Langlais said there aren't additional expansion plans, yet.
"We might outgrow that in the next two to five years," he said, which could trigger another addition.
Androscoggin Home Healthcare & Hospice is expanding in Augusta, leasing 4,925 square feet of office space at 165 Capitol St., in a former CVS.
An office on the Manchester/Augusta line already serves the area but the move gives the agency more office space and room for a second hospice thrift store, according to President and CEO Ken Albert.
"As with our retail location on Center Street in Auburn, retail proceeds aid in offsetting the costs associated with providing free care for our uninsured patients," Albert said. "As more patients and families in Kennebec County select Androscoggin to provide home health, hospice and palliative medicine services, we are pleased and fortunate to move into this wonderful location in Augusta."
Androscoggin provides service in 10 counties in Maine.
After a bustling summer, commercial building permit activity slowed a bit in each of the Twin Cities in August.
Among the projects estimated at $25,000 or more in Auburn:
— A $50,000 new barn foundation at 115 North Auburn Road for the Lake Auburn Watershed Neighborhood Association.
— A $69,000 demolition of a 3,216-square-foot building at 18 Hazel St. for Apache Properties.
And in Lewiston:
— A $25,000 renovation at 911 Lisbon St. for Harvest CC, renovating the sales floor.
— A new $80,000 radio antenna support tower to replace a tower at 31 Frye St. for Bates College's WRBC 91.5 FM.
WalletHub this week quantified "2021's Happiest States in America" using 31 measures — rates of depression, divorce rates, who's getting the most sleep — and ranked Maine No. 20, overall.
Maine didn't crack the top 20 last year, so, smiles to that. The state ranked No. 30 in 2020 but a spokeswoman cautioned that the methodology changes every year so they don't encourage year-to-year comparisons.
Leading the happy charge in 2021 was Utah and coming in at No. 50 was West Virginia.
Maine did pull in one No. 1 sub-ranking for the safest state in the country.