AUBURN — Two downtown parcels recently purchased by the Auburn Housing Authority may become parking lots, but city officials said Monday they would prefer at least one be preserved for future development.

The Auburn Residential Development Corp., an affiliate of Auburn Housing Authority, recently purchased properties at 65 Pleasant St., which was destroyed by fire in June, and 154 Court St. lying adjacent to the historic and thriving Engine House building.

According to Rick Whiting, executive director of the Auburn Housing Authority, the land was purchased in order to meet a need for parking at the organization’s current mixed-use development at 62 Spring St.

He said potential tenants for the first-floor commercial space at the development are looking for more long-term parking options rather than two-hour, on-street parking.  He also said Maine Housing does not allow parking spaces to be used for commercial tenants at its developments.

With the recent fire at the Pleasant Street building, Whiting said the property may not be “restorable,” making a parking lot a viable solution for the short-term.

“We think by having parking available at that site, it enhances our ability to lease the commercial spaces,” he said.

However, during the City Council workshop Monday, several councilors and Mayor Jason Levesque said they had heard concerns from constituents that Auburn Housing was “land banking for parking.”

Levesque said he was concerned that once the lots are used for parking, they may never be redeveloped for different uses.

The mayor requested that the housing authority not tear down any of the existing buildings until after the city’s current strategic planning process is over.

Whiting said they’re hopeful there will eventually be leftover parking at 62 Spring St. once it’s fully leased.

“We do see it as a short term thing,” Whiting said. “We think once we get it occupied, where it’s in a walkable location, there won’t be as many cars as we think.”

At the Court Street parcel, where a two-unit building stands next to the Engine House, Whiting said it could be redeveloped in the future.

Councilor Alfreda Fournier said she has spoken with tenants at Engine House, who are hoping to see Auburn expand on the influx of small business that’s been seen there.

“They want to expand on that,” she said. “My vision would be that building would be part of that.”

“We’ve heard from Engine House (tenants) that they want a more walkable community, with more storefronts,” Levesque said.

The development at 62 Spring St. is expected to be complete this spring.

During the public comment session, resident Dana Staples said the city needs to come up with long-term parking solutions to eventually ease situations like this. He said the city needs new development, but that the Auburn Housing Authority situations makes it clear that parking is an issue downtown.

“Successful downtown’s share one thing. You can’t park next to where you’re going,” he said, adding that walkable city draws people to walk along storefronts. “As we grow, all businesses will have the same concern.”

[email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.