KITTERY, Maine — The vacant Foreside property once owned by ex-bus depot owner James Dineen is inching closer to being the new home of Winter Holben architecture + design, three apartment units and a gallery for local artists with a rooftop deck.
The abandoned building at 3 Walker St. currently sits empty after being used as a single-family dwelling unit and office space in the past. The town previously acquired the site and sold it to The Cheney Companies, an apartment rental agency based in Newmarket, New Hampshire, in September 2022.
The existing Dineen property would be demolished as the first major element of the proposed overhaul, making way for a new three-story building that would go in its place.
The original redevelopment proposal stated a food and beverage or retail establishment could possibly call the Walker Street lot home in the future. But modified plans now call for neighboring Wallingford Square firm Winter Holben architecture + design, the design lead on the project, to move into the building, pending approval from the Kittery Planning Board.
Winter Holben architecture + design has long wanted new home in Kittery’s Foreside
Elisa Winter Holben, principal and chief executive officer of Winter Holben architecture + design, spoke last week in support of the project at the Planning Board’s meeting.
“We’re really passionate about this project because we’ve been thinking about it for many years. We’ve been looking for a home to call our own in the Foreside after renting for many years,” she said. “We were looking for the perfect location. After working with the owner on the project, we realized this was a perfect location for our firm and such an important piece of the Foreside, which we really love. We would love to call it our home and it would really support our business growth as longtime business owners and also participants in our community.”
Winter Holben architecture + design is presently housed in 7 Wallingford Square, the staple downtown commercial building where Lil’s Cafe, Maine Meat and Anju Noodle Bar are also located, among others.
Affordable housing is part of project proposal
Two of the three proposed apartments would be leased as affordable housing, both of which would be located on the ground level of the potential mixed-use building. One would have a single bedroom, while the other would be a studio unit, according to plans filed with the town.
“Based on the 2023 MaineHousing Rent Restricted Programs charts, the rent for these units are targeted at 60% (of the area median income),” wrote Brandon Holben, principal architect of Winter Holben architecture + design, in a description of the project. “These rents are calculated to be $1,279/month for the studio and $1,371/month for the one-bedroom, respectively. Both affordable units are located on the southern side of the building, providing optimal daylighting.”
The studio unit would be 357 square feet and the one-bedroom unit would be 537 square feet, if approved. The third proposed apartment unit would go for market rate and be located on the top floor.
“We’re excited about pursuing this,” Brandon Holben said of the proposal’s housing component.
The space allocated to Winter Holben architecture + design would include a kitchenette, conference room and multiple restrooms. A community artist gallery would be positioned just outside of the firm’s office, giving the building “life beyond our office hours,” Elisa Winter Holben said.
The rooftop deck would be accessible to the building’s tenants, providing a view of the Foreside, nearby businesses and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard over the Piscataqua River.
Four parking spaces and snow storage would be located behind the new structure, plans state.
The Holbens represented building owner Lane Cheney at the meeting. Cheney is the principal of The Cheney Companies.
The Kittery Planning Board unanimously approved the preliminary plan for the site, sending it one step closer to receiving the necessary permitting from the town to proceed.