The Northern Forest Center has successfully reached its initial goal of raising $1 million in investments for its Millinocket Housing Initiative Fund and has put the money to work directly in the community. The Center created the Millinocket Housing Initiative Fund, its first social and economic impact investment fund, to create quality homes for people who want to make a future in Millinocket.
Only two years after the launch of the fund, the Center has purchased six buildings and renovated five, turning dilapidated downtown properties into comfortable, high quality homes.
“We owe our success to the generous investors who stand with us in supporting the future of Millinocket,” said Center President Rob Riley. “We’re seeing great enthusiasm by individuals and foundations who want to make impact investments to advance the revitalization of our rural communities.”
Three of the completed renovations were extensive, reconfiguring the living spaces, replacing all windows and insulation, and replacing a roof. In February, the Center began a top-to-bottom renovation on the sixth property at 100 Katahdin Avenue, a grand but long-abandoned home on Veteran’s Park within an easy walk to downtown stores, the elementary school and the library.
The Center’s most ambitious Millinocket renovation project to date, the 100 Katahdin Avenue project will reconfigure the building from five apartments to three. McLaughlin Builders of Medway, Maine, is heading up reconstruction of the building and expects to complete work by August.
Housing is one piece of the Center’s broader strategy to support a strong and diversified economic future. The Center is also helping to bring tax credit financing to the Millinocket Memorial Library and working with the local group Our Katahdin to do the same for the mill site; supporting development and improvement of recreational trails; managing building renovations; and helping convert buildings to wood pellet heat.
“The Fund has enabled the Center to fill a critical need in Millinocket, but we’re nowhere near done,” said Riley, who announced that the Center is raising additional capital to focus on commercial real estate redevelopment. The Center is also raising funds for community investment in Lancaster, N.H. The Center is paying interest to investors in the funds and will repay the capital at the end of the investment term.
Top photo: renovations underway at 100 Katahdin. Bottom photo: Completed renovations at 26 Central Street.
Millinocket's economy declined steadily after Great Northern paper mill closed in 2008, eliminating the source of jobs that had created the town and which drove the local economy. Over the years, the town's population declined and home values plummeted, leaving blighted neighborhoods and discouraging investment in residential improvements.
Recent initiatives, including the designation of the national monument, are stimulating Millinocket's economy, yet employers and others in the community have told us there is a real need to improve the quality and condition of in-town homes available for people who want to be part of the town's renaissance.
We believe good quality housing is crucial to attract professionals to new job opportunities, to provide seasonal rentals for workers in the recreational industry as it grows, and to complement revitalization activities downtown and at the former mill site. Our program will also ensure that at least some of Millinocket's vacant housing will be quickly renovated and available, rather than caught up in any rise in real estate speculation.
Read the latest updates about $1 million in capital investments successfully raised for the Millinocket Housing Initiative.