Target’s proposed $9.6 million renovation of the former Center Street Kmart is under review in Auburn with a targeted opening date around Thanksgiving. Kmart closed more than a year ago. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

AUBURN — With nearly $12 million in proposed projects under review this month, $5 million-plus already permitted and an application pending for a new $8 million warehouse and distribution center by Exit 75, Auburn is looking at what could be a record-breaking year for development.

“The data doesn’t lie,” Mayor Jason Levesque said Tuesday. “The massive increase in development in Auburn shows no signs of slowing and will only continue to grow to levels never before seen in our region.”

In the first 11 months of its fiscal year, the city has issued 1,029 building, electrical, plumbing and sign permits, the most year-to-date in nine years, according to city records.

That development so far has been estimated at $42.6 million in construction costs, behind fiscal year 2019’s $45.4 million, but that year could be surpassed by the banner month on tap for June.

Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, said of the 10 $100,000-plus projects under review, a mix of commercial and residential development, the largest is a $9.6 million renovation by Target of the former Center Street Kmart.

“It’s a really substantial rehab; it won’t look like the same building,” he said. “I suspect that (the permit) will be issued this month.”

Announced late last year, Target’s opening is still slated for “sometime around Thanksgiving and at least by Christmas if they don’t make the Thanksgiving mark,” Cousens said.

Kmart closed more than a year ago.

Jim Harper welds an awning in June 2020 at FutureGuard Building Products in Auburn. After several expansions in the past year, the company is growing again. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Issued already this month: Approvals for another expansion at FutureGuard Building Products, this one a $3.6 million project for more than 100,000 square feet, and a $2.1 million, 13,500-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility at 59 Mystique Way.

FutureGuard has been on a growth tear with its high-end awnings and a new line of outdoor sunrooms since the start of the pandemic, investing millions and expanding several times.

The Mystique Way development is part of 14 buildings approved for the Mystique Way Cannabis Park just over a year ago.

“I’m told that there’s only a few more lots available out there and most of those are under contract or will be shortly,” Cousens said. “Most of those have been averaging $2 million to $3 million per building.”

The site plan for F.W. Webb Co.’s proposed warehouse, showroom and distribution center off Kittyhawk Avenue in Auburn was prepared by SJR Engineering and included in the company’s application to the Auburn Planning Board.

Finally, submitted last week and in front of the Planning Board next month: F.W. Webb Co. has proposed a new 66,675-square-foot warehouse, distribution facility and showroom off Kittyhawk Avenue with a potential, smaller phase 2 expansion.

The company specializes in plumbing, heating and refrigeration, according to consultant Michael Gotto’s application.

“The new Auburn location will include a showroom, a training room and will provide more space to support the local wholesale business activities in this market area,” Gotto wrote.

It would employ 25 people to start and could grow to 38.

The project would share a driveway with the current Dunkin’ and Mobil development there. If approved by the board July 13, construction would start in August and it would be anticipated to open by next June.

F.W. Webb has a location in Lewiston and more than 90 locations in nine states.

An arrow points to the location for an $8 million F.W. Webb Co. warehouse, distribution center and showroom in Auburn, part of a development boom the city’s experiencing this summer. The map is part of plans prepared for the Auburn Planning Board by SJR Engineering.

Cousens said the city has had a goal to hit $40 million in development annually the past six years. Levesque has been busy spreading the message that “we’re open for business,” Cousens said.

“We’ve really tried to make sure our review process is streamlined and the word is out that we’re excited about new projects and new development,” Cousens said. “The mayor’s been on the radio a number of times and talking to Portland’s greater council of governments. We’re talking about a lot of new residential developments with developers who have not traditionally done projects in Auburn since the rent controls have passed in Portland, so we’re really hoping to have additional announcements.”

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