Developers remain hopeful about Senior Courtyard

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

STILL HOPEFUL — Ingrid von Kannewurff stands at the front porch railing of the only duplex townhouse that has yet been built at the project she spearheaded, Bridgton Senior Courtyard at 234 South High Street. (Geraghty Photo)

It was a dream that crashed with the economic meltdown of 2008; just as all approvals were granted.

Bridgton Senior Courtyard on South High Street, across from St. Joseph Catholic Church, was to have been a retirement community for the 55+ crowd, with 60 maintenance-free and energy-efficient duplex townhouses, condos and apartments.

Now, just one duplex townhouse has been built, and the developers, Ingrid and Fred von Kannewurff, are living in one of the units that once marketed for $299,000. The unit on the other side is the only one that was sold. They relocated from the house they still own on Blueberry Hill, and haven’t yet been able to sell; they are no longer comfortable climbing the stairs of their former home, and figured they may as well take advantage of the energy savings from the duplex’s geo-thermal heating system and triple glass windows.

“It’s just a question of timing,” said Ingrid, who still sees the need for a supportive retirement community in town for older people who sell their lifelong homes and don’t want to move too far away from their roots. “The market needs to get better,” she said. The phased project envisioned a total of 60 condos, 12 townhouses and 48 apartments, ranging in size from 1,100 to 2,000 square feet, eventually including a common gathering center and restaurant.

The von Kannewurffs are observing, with interest, the town’s efforts to help Avesta Housing overcome zoning hurdles in order to build 21 units of affordable housing in downtown Bridgton, on the site of the former Chapter 11 building at Pondicherry Square. The von Kannewurff’s project was never intended to be subsidized housing, as Avesta’s project would be.

“I think it is necessary” to provide more subsidized housing for seniors, Ingrid said, since Wayside Pines, the only one of the four subsidized housing projects in town limited to seniors, has a lengthy waiting list. According to Alan Manoian, Bridgton’s Director of Economic and Community Development, Wayside Pines currently has 60 people on the waiting list for one-bedroom apartments and 20 people for two-bedroom apartments.

Avesta has an option on the Crockett Ridge property, just up Route 117, but there’s only enough land there to build around 12 units. Next Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Bridgton Board of Selectmen and Bridgton Planning Board will hold a joint special meeting and public hearing, starting at 6 p.m., to consider changing the square-foot density requirement for single-unit homes from 25,000 to 1,000 square feet in the General Development District. The change would be incorporated into both the site plan and shoreland zoning ordinances, as well as the town’s subdivision regulations.

A date of Dec. 13 has been set for a special town referendum vote on the changes. If enacted, the town would also need to have the shoreland zoning changes approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Chapter 11 building owner Zack Sclar, who also owns Food City, stands ready to sign an option with Avesta Housing if the changes are approved, which would allow Avesta to submit plans for a $4 million, three-story subsidized senior housing project with possible commercial space on the ground floor.

Ingrid said her project fills a different niche, as Bridgton seeks to serve the needs of an older population that comprises 20% of the town’s total population.

“My point was that a lot gets done for our low income people,” but not as much for those who do not qualify for entitlement programs, she said. That’s why, as a member of the board at the Bridgton Community Center, she founded a Senior Transportation Program that provides affordable rides for seniors whose income is too high to qualify for the rides program offered by Community Concepts. The service, which is now run independently and is self-sustaining, offers in-town rides for $5, and a trip to Portland for $20, she said.

“There’s a niche where people do not get service,” agreed Fred von Kannewurff. “There’s a need that goes unmet.”

As a result, they are still hoping an investor will come forward to continue the project they started, which is still quite viable, given some adjustments in pricing. The 42 acres extends nearly all the way down to Stevens Brook, and is only a mile and a half away from downtown. Anyone interested in learning more may contact listing agent Cheryl Willey at Chalmers Realty, at 647-3311, ext. 148.

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