'Everybody deserves a place to call home'

By Stephen Betts | Nov 06, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts The ceremonial groundbreaking for Philbrick Commons was held Wednesday morning, Nov. 6 on Philbrick Avenue in Rockland.

Rockland — Construction of the first homes in Philbrick Commons is expected to start next week, providing a rebirth to a once vibrant neighborhood that was eventually demolished.

The ceremonial groundbreaking was held Wednesday, Nov. 6 as Habitat for Humanity, community leaders, and neighbors to the Philbrick Avenue housing development gathered. The groundbreaking comes as city officials acknowledge the severity of a lack of affordable housing.

Philbrick Commons will eventually consist of 12 one and two-bedroom homes of between 650 and 850 square feet.

Tia Anderson, executive director of Midcoast Habitat for Humanity, said Habitat was excited to begin the "pocket neighborhood" that offers affordable home ownership to diverse population of veterans, seniors, middle-age singles and couples, and small families.

"The neighborhood is intentionally designed with houses facing a common green space and welcoming front porches to promote a close-knit sense of community and neighborliness," Anderson said.

She said Philbrick Commons represents the efforts of not only Midcoast Habitat for Humanity but a community willing to collaborate to make an impact," she said.

Anderson thanked numerous people who played a role in the project.

"And finally to the hundreds of volunteers who will offer their time and hands to build not just houses but homes with love, believing and building the best for others, because everyone deserves a place to call home," she said.

In attendance at the groundbreaking were two long-time neighbors.

Julia Brackett, 95, said she has lived on Philbrook Avenue all but three years of her life -- those were the years immediately after she married.

And Todd Eaton, who turned 64 on Wednesday, also attended. He said he likes what is being done and looks forward to the new neighborhood.

Eaton said he also enjoyed spending time playing in the old neighborhood, joking that he wouldn't even want to say everything he did there as a child.

In the summer of 2012, 13 homes and several sheds that were located on the street were demolished. The homes all had septic systems that had long since failed. The city had attempted on a few occasions since the 1980s to get grants to extend a public sewer line to the property, but was unsuccessful.

That sewer extension was finally undertaken and completed this fall.

The street is located off Route 1 along the busy Camden Street stretch.

The former homes had been built by Eugene Philbrick, the grandfather of Madeline Philbrick. In a 2012 interview, Madeline Philbrick recalled the neighborhood fondly. She lived on the street for a few years in the late 1920s, attending a small school nearby on Camden Street.

“Those were good days. It was a dead-end street and children could play in the street. You were close to everything,” Philbrick recalled.

Philbrick died in December 2016 at the age of 96.

Habitat purchased the approximately 2.5-acre parcel in January 2017 for $105,000 from Philbrick's estate. The property includes both sides of the road and abuts the Pen Bay Acres subdivision.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said the groundbreaking at Philbrick represented the culmination of years of community outreach and collaboration with the city of Rockland.

"It will be so gratifying to build this neighborhood and provide a whole new group of people - veterans, single retirees and small families — with safe, affordable Habitat homes. I’m grateful to everyone who made this day possible," said Doudera who serves on the Habitat Board and was Board president when the organization undertook growth including opening it store and hiring Anderson as executive director.

Anderson  thanked the city of Rockland, City Manager Tom Luttrell, the City Council, Planning Board, Code Office John Root, Wastewater Director Terry Pinto, the fire, police and public works departments for their assistance.

She praised Mike Sabatini of Landmark Corporation for shepherding the project through the planning process. She also thanked Dav Johnson for the cottage designs focusing on efficiency and aesthetics.

Camden National Bank, the Genesis Fund, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Machias Savings Bank were praised for their assistance in financing the project.

And Anderson cited the many businesses that consistently provide discounted materials and services to Habitat's projects. That includes Horch Roofing, Viking Lumber, Hammond Lumber, E.L. Spear, and Lowe's.

The Maine State Prison was also thanked for its assistance with prisoners who provide labor.

The Rockland City Council unanimously approved a contract zone for the development in March 2019. A contract zone was needed because the residential development will have smaller lot sizes, reduced road frontage and smaller minimum house sizes than current zoning allows.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Debra Damon | Nov 11, 2019 06:31

What a positive thing to happen. Housing is so needed. I'd like to see more happening for our Veterans also.

Posted by: Deborah A McKenney | Nov 08, 2019 11:59

Yes it is Val . Thank you for saying that. Tired of all the negativity !

Posted by: Deborah A McKenney | Nov 08, 2019 11:57

Yes it is Val . Thank you for saying that. Tired of all the negativity !

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 08, 2019 08:01

Once again I will say how happy I am to see this project finally get underway and how sad I am to see them breaking ground the first week of November.  Any builder that has more than a third grade education knows in Maine how difficult it is to begin a project of this scope at this time of year.  Simply pouring cement in freezing tempatures is not recommended.  It also doubles the cost of such an undertaking.  It is difficult for me to understand why the permitting process dragged on all summer and fall to end up at this point.  Good luck folks, dress warm.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 07, 2019 14:31

Hopefully there will be affordable taxes with nil' increases so people can stay there with dignity and not be severely taxed out. Like happened in Camden when WW2 Vets were taxed out of their homes with outrageous tax increases. I remember that well! Sadly!

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Nov 07, 2019 10:41



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