City of Belfast Economic Development Director, City Council announce plans to improve Wight Street – PenBayPilot.com

BELFAST — Two new affordable housing developments have been recently completed on Wight Street in Belfast, and are already at full capacity, according to the Belfast City Manager’s Office, in a news release. This was a first step in addressing the growing need for affordable housing in the City. Now, Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge, with the support of the Belfast City Council, is looking to further improve housing and infrastructure on Wight Street and Congress Street.

The City of Belfast currently envisions building a new affordable housing complex at the former Public Works Department location on Congress Street. The City also envisions an infrastructure project located within the City of Belfast’s existing right of way along the entirety of Wight Street, and along a section of Congress Street located between Wight Street and US Route 1.

“The Belfast City Council is focused on providing more affordable housing for our community,” said City Councilor Mary Mortier. “This is a real challenge in many ways, especially funding. The City has a goal and a vision, the need was identified and quantified by a market analysis. Locations were narrowed down to Wight Street and an adjoining section of Congress Street. Engineering studies and City planning began and developers presented proposals. The City’s Economic Development Director has beaten every path, proactively, on behalf of the City Council, staff, and citizens of Belfast to identify all possible funding partners who can participate in helping us attain our goal and vision. The vision includes not only the critically needed affordable housing units themselves, but just as importantly incorporates the needed infrastructure improvements. These include storm drainage, sewer system installation and improvements, road reconstruction incorporating pedestrian accessible, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and also possible bike lanes. This is a beginning! Our community is proactive and passionate and cares about diversity and inclusion in everything, especially housing opportunities for our friends and neighbors.”

The infrastructure project could include the following improvements: a sidewalk on Wight Street, storm drainage on both sides of Wight Street, a sewer line extension on the East side of the section of Congress Street, reconstruction of the Wight Street road base, pedestrian crossings in multiple locations along Wight Street, traffic calming measures in multiple locations along Wight Street, and bike lanes on both sides of Wight Street. 

“Wight Street is a busy and densely populated road critical to vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles,” said City Councilor Mike Hurley. “The people of the Wight Street and Congress Street neighborhoods and the entire City are excited by this carefully planned project which will create an enhanced welcoming and safer neighborhood street with pedestrian amenities, traffic calming, and storm water management.”

In order to achieve and support financing for these incredible projects, Belfast City Council authorized the submission of the Economic Development Director’s application to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Public Infrastructure Grant Program at their City Council meeting on March 1, 2022. The CBDG Public Infrastructure Grant Program requires a recipient to provide cash matching funds equivalent to at least 25% of the grant award amount, with the maximum grant award amount of $990,000. Kittredge also conducted a survey of the neighborhood to get a good sense of the demographics of the neighborhood to ensure that this plan best addresses the infrastructural and economic needs of the community. The CDBG Public Infrastructure Grant Program grant, if awarded, would provide a large portion of the funding necessary to create the new sewer line, storm drainage, sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, and traffic calming measures on Wight Street and a portion of Congress Street.

“This CDBG Public Infrastructure Grant will help fund needed infrastructure costs on Wight Street and Congress Street,” said City Councilor Paul Dean. “The low- to-moderate income senior housing in this area needs improvements to its sewer lines, storm water drainage, along with street sidewalks. The City of Belfast has been working hard to create affordable housing in Belfast and this CDBG grant money will go a long way in helping us complete this affordable housing project with the needed infrastructure that goes with it.”

The extent of these improvements would be subject to the availability of both the funding and the space available, as well as the final design of the project which will occur when the scope of the project is determined.

“While this project does not fully address the lack of affordable housing in Belfast, it is another big step in the right direction of addressing the problem,” said the release.

Recently, the City of Belfast was also approved for a $500,000 grant from the CDBG Housing Assistance Program. This grant award will be used towards the costs of a new affordable housing complex on Congress Street. This new housing project on Congress Street is projected to include 36 affordable housing units and 12 market rate units. The housing complex would also be well located, in proximity to activities and assets in the City such as the Waldo County General Hospital, Downtown Belfast, and Belfast City Park.

“I am super proud of this,” said Mayor Eric Sanders, “as I believe wholly in the need for more housing, more affordable housing, and the opportunity that comes from it, both with infrastructure and the chance for more people to be able to call Belfast their hometown!”

If anyone is interested in learning more about the grant application and plans for the project, please see Economic Development Director Kittredge’s interview for “Somewhere in Waldo County” at https://vimeo.com/682854158.

If anyone has comments or questions regarding the infrastructure project and the grant application, they are encouraged to contact Economic Development Director Kittredge via mail at: City of Belfast, Belfast City Hall, 131 Church Street, Belfast, Maine 04915, via email at: economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org, or via phone at (207) 338-3370, extension 116