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August 11, 2020 at 7:00 am · · Comments Off on The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Founders Place Campus, Bangor

The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Founders Place Campus, Bangor

In a multi-part series, exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation.  MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

Our 2019 Top 7 recipients include:

62 Spring Street, Auburn, Anew Development / Auburn Housing
Founders Place Campus, Bangor, Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers
Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve, LLC
WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Portland, Jonathan S. Cohen – 0 Hancock Street, LLC
Hannaford Center, Hampden, Good Shepherd Food Bank
Southgate, Scarborough, Avesta Housing
Station Square, Gorham, Great Falls Construction

MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award winners at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times.  We look forward to formally recognizing these recipients at a future MEREDA event.

Please join us this week in celebrating Founders Place Campus in Bangor.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  Bangor Savings Bank’s new corporate headquarters consists of three primary structures on a 4.8 acre downtown waterfront campus consolidated from private and public lots.  The campus consists of three buildings: 1) a 5 level 35,500 SF Corporate Headquarters in a renovated historic structure; 2) a 5 level 120,000 SF state-of-the-art Operations Center; and 3) a new 5 level, 457 space parking garage.  Particularly noteworthy is the facility’s extensive environmental systems that include 80 geothermal wells and, at nearly 1,400-panels, one of the State of Maine’s largest solar arrays covering the parking garage.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?  

Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  Recognizing that attracting the best regional banking talent to one of the most remote urban centers of New England in a tight labor market would require providing more modern amenities, the project’s function and design was formulated to satisfy these requirements in the form of a dynamic legacy headquarter for the remainder of the 21st century.  Accordingly, the campus and facilities were planned with flexible and collaborative working environments, extensive environmental/sustainable systems and extensive and automated natural daylighting and views.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

 Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  We were in the research and planning phase 12-18 months

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

 Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  The most challenging aspect was the expedited timeframe. Bangor Savings Bank conceived of its relocation into a new headquarters in January of 2017 without determining a new location and with existing leases terminating in January of 2019.  The first prerequisite was to identify a location in the heart of downtown Bangor, where BSB was founded in 1852.  With 24 months to secure site control and permit, design and construct a new legacy campus, fast tracking the project was essential.  Within months, three adjacent properties were secured and consolidated from private and public sources and design had begun on developing the next era of founder’s vision to serve and support the City of Bangor and its residents.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

 Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  Given the time constraints, the one thing we learned was the importance of valued business partners, such as Dunbar and Brawn, Cianbro, Sargent Corp, and all the other engineers alongside the BSB team. We had to all work toward a common goal to achieve and successfully complete a project of this size.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers:  Bangor Savings Bank’s new corporate headquarters campus is prominently located on the Bangor Waterfront so as to 1) cement the future of the Bank’s headquarters in Bangor, 2) attract talent and meet the expectations of an existing workforce by adding amenities typical of an more urban environment, 3) incorporate and leverage environmentally sustainable technology into the buildings, and 4) redeveloping Bangor’s waterfront.   Ultimately, the development has brought together over 400 employees with the capacity for up to 500 professional jobs in the Bangor workforce that will spur additional business growth to the area.

August 4, 2020 at 7:00 am · · Comments Off on Industrial Market Mid-Year Review

Industrial Market Mid-Year Review

by Justin Lamontagne, CCIM, SIOR, Partner, Designated Broker at NAI The Dunham Group

How’s the market? It is the most common question asked of any commercial broker in these trying times. And, most often, the answer is “…depends”. Unlike retail and the mixed-bag office market, the industrial sector is thriving through Covid. Manufacturing, warehousing and distribution are proving essential.  And examples abound of industrial companies pivoting in a positive way to provide much needed services and products in account of this pandemic.

At NAI The Dunham Group, we are pleased to present a mid-year update to our annual Industrial Market Survey. Indeed, the statistics reflect a dynamic market and confirm our anecdotal and transactional workload. In 2020 we’ve added Falmouth to our survey and are now tracking a nearly 20,000,000 SF Greater Portland market including Saco & Biddeford.

Today, our vacancy rate holds steady at 2.79% and that includes the only significantly large vacancy in all of Greater Portland, a 167,000 SF warehouse at 203 Read Street in Portland. That building is getting a lot of activity and, if leased, our overall rate will drop to a stifling 1.95%. And, practically speaking, because most industrial end-users are looking for smaller units, that sub-2% availability is what tenants and buyers are dealing with. Herein Sam LeGeyt reports on the “sweet spot” for industrial users and the dramatic lack of this type of inventory. We are hopeful these market conditions lead to long-awaited speculative development.

Sales demand for existing inventory remains at an all-time high. Bullish investors, both local and regional, are competing with end-users. This consistent and competitive demand has driven average sales prices towards $80/SF with peak pricing well over $100/SF. It seems the volatility of the stock market and the uncertain economic outlook is driving investors to bricks & mortar. And, as mentioned, no sector is better positioned to weather the Covid storm and prosper post-pandemic than industrial.

Nationally, the industrial sector remains as healthy as ever. Unlike in Maine, speculative construction has kept up with demand and vacancy rates remain historically low throughout most of the country. Tertiary markets, in particular, are seeing great new development as businesses are attracted by cheaper land, tax incentives and interstate connectivity to find Mid-Year Review employees. In fact, many manufacturing businesses are choosing labor pools over geography as the driving reason for plant location.

Of course, the great caveat to all of this is Covid and the still lingering long term ramifications. I’ve said to many clients, we’re very much IN this. This pandemic is happening right now. It’s never been harder to make projections or predictions because there are so many variables and possible trickle-down effects from this pandemic we haven’t even considered.

In summary, the industrial market is proving Covid-resistant and the environment has never been more competitive. We see few signs of change in the near-term but this pandemic is truly unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It would be irresponsible to say the industrial market is immune to the effects of this crisis. But so far it sure is putting up a good fight.

July 28, 2020 at 6:00 am · · Comments Off on The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on 62 Spring Street, Auburn

The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on 62 Spring Street, Auburn

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

Our 2019 Top 7 recipients include:

62 Spring Street, Auburn, Anew Development / Auburn Housing
Founders Place Campus, Bangor, Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers
Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve, LLC
WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Portland, Jonathan S. Cohen – 0 Hancock Street, LLC
Hannaford Center, Hampden, Good Shepherd Food Bank
Southgate, Scarborough, Avesta Housing
Station Square, Gorham, Great Falls Construction

MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award winners at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times.  We look forward to formally recognizing these recipients at a future MEREDA event.

Please join us this week in celebrating 62 Spring Street in Auburn.

 

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  62 Spring Street is a mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Auburn, with 32 affordable units, 9 market rate units, and over 2500 square feet of street-front retail space. 62 Spring Street was developed by Anew Development in partnership with Auburn Housing Development Corporation, a community housing development corporation affiliated with Auburn Housing Authority.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?  

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Ethan Boxer-Macomber became aware of underutilized property available next to the historic Engine House and across from Hannaford Supermarket on Spring Street in Auburn. In 2014 he approached Rick Whiting of Auburn Housing with the concept of maximizing use of the site through the creation of a four- story, mixed -use property which would bring back some of the housing density previously lost to fires and demolitions for parking. AHDC purchased the property with a pre-development loan from the Genesis Community Loan Fund, an underutilized rambling funeral home was demolished, and Anew/AHDC applied for low income housing tax credits multiple times before being awarded credits in the 2017 competition. Instrumental in all of this was the active support of the City of Auburn, which provided 70% Tax Increment Financing & a forgivable $250,000 Fed-Home loan.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  We struggled with cost containment issues, as the original design by Marilyn Leivian of PDT Architects (now CHA) involved expensive covered parking beneath the building structure that needed to be value-engineered out of the design in order to be cost-competitive. Additionally, environmental issues with the site, due to the presence of a former “gasoline alley” nearby required careful investigation and mitigation efforts, including a V-R-A-P with Maine D.E.P. The Auburn Planning Board initially approved the original design in August 2014 after a very positive public meeting was held in a neighborhood church. In 2016, Marilyn Leivian and her team pursued an aggressive schedule to re-design the project, which became the first development approved under the City of Auburn’s new form-based code at the August 2016 meeting of the Auburn Planning Board. In Maine Housing’s 2016 LIHTC competition, 62 Spring Street was finally awarded tax credits and began construction in December 2017.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  The project, already handicapped by a winter start, was hampered by the longest cold snap in decades, and took a while to get moving. However, Benchmark Construction proved up to the task and completed a high-quality building & durable site work in a very tight urban setting.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Even though the delay was frustrating, the response in terms of demand for the units was unprecedented, with over 200 applications received for 41 residential units and lease-up occurring in two months. The development continues to maintain a waiting list of over 200 applications to this day, due to the property’s central location and amenities.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Anew Development | Auburn Housing Authority:  Although the neighborhood has no architectural unity, with a grocery store, a seventies modern bank, a historic fire station and library, and residential buildings, nonetheless 62 Spring Street “fits” the neighborhood in terms of scale, use and appearance, and is a welcome addition to the street.

July 21, 2020 at 6:54 am · · Comments Off on Depreciable Life of Qualified Improvement Property

Depreciable Life of Qualified Improvement Property

By John Hadwen, CPA, Principal, Baker Newman Noyes

April 1, 2020

(A long overdue technical amendment)

Updated as of April 22, 2020

This article was updated on April 22 to incorporate the guidance of Rev. Proc. 2020-25. It provides another means (the use of filing a Form 3115 in addition to amending a return) by which a taxpayer can implement the shorter tax life given to qualified improvement property (QIP) by the CARES Act. It also gives taxpayers the ability to make a late election or revoke/withdraw an election to use the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) or not claim bonus depreciation on any asset class for the 2018, 2019 or 2020 tax years.

April 9 Update: As we explain in an April 9 article, Revenue Procedure 2020-23 now allows (until September 30, 2020) partnerships that are subject to the “BBA” rules to make corrections to previously-filed 2018 and 2019 tax returns, thereby implementing retroactive features of the CARES Act in a manner that impacts those tax years (and the partners in place at those times), rather than impacting the 2020 year (and its partners). The reduced tax life and bonus depreciation associated with the Qualified Improvement Property are excellent candidates for this temporary leeway.

The CARES act finally fixes a well-known qualified improvement property (QIP) “glitch” that was bungled in 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). QIP is generally defined as any improvement made to the interior portion of a nonresidential building any time after the building was placed in service. QIP does not include any improvement for which the expenditure is attributable to the enlargement of the building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework of the building.

In 2017, TCJA legislation inadvertently caused this category of assets to be assigned a depreciable tax life of 39 years and become ineligible for bonus depreciation. In spite of congressional intent to correct this oversight for more than two years, nothing materialized until now. The CARES Act changes the depreciable life back to its pre-TCJA 15 year life and makes QIP eligible for 100% bonus depreciation. As a bonus to taxpayers, the technical correction is retroactive to January 1, 2018, so additional tax benefits can be realized by taxpayers for their 2018 and 2019 tax years.

Generally taxpayers may have to file an amended return to benefit from this change. However, Rev. Proc. 2020-25 gives taxpayers another option to change the depreciation of QIP placed in service by the taxpayer in a tax year ending in 2018, 2019 or 2020. Additionally the revenue procedure allows taxpayers to make a late election or to revoke or withdraw an election to use the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) or not claim bonus depreciation on any asset class for the 2018, 2019 or 2020 tax years.

BNN Observation: With the issuance of Rev. Proc. 2020-23, all partnerships, corporations (C or S), trusts, and individuals can file amended returns for 2018 and realize this benefit in the 2018 tax year. BBA Partnerships or partnerships subject to the partnership audit rules should file amended returns and issue amended Schedule K-1s prior to September 30, 2020 before the relief in Rev. Proc. 2020-23 expires.

Some taxpayers have made a farming business or real property trade or business election under Section 163(j)(7)(B) and (C), requiring the use of ADS and disallowing bonus depreciation for certain property. Rev. Proc. 2020-22 gives these businesses much needed relief and flexibility for making or revoking the election to be an electing real property trade or business or electing farm trade or business for the business interest limitations purposes.

Taxpayers should consult their tax advisors to review their facts and determine the best courses of action. For many taxpayers, filing Form 3115 may be the most efficient and fastest way to get the benefit(s) associated with QIP and to make or revoke related elections. However, situations may exist where filing an amended tax return may be a better option (e.g., if a taxpayer is already amending a tax return for other items or amending generates a larger NOL carryback claim.)

BNN Observation: It is important not to forget the state income tax implications of this provision, because many states do not conform to bonus depreciation or allow NOL carrybacks.

Original article published April 1, 2020, https://www.bnncpa.com/resources/depreciable-life-of-qualified-improvement-property/

July 14, 2020 at 8:37 am · · Comments Off on The Outstanding Seven: MEREDA’s 2019 Notable Project Recipients

The Outstanding Seven: MEREDA’s 2019 Notable Project Recipients

PORTLAND, ME – July 13, 2020 –  Every spring, MEREDA recognizes the most noteworthy and significant Maine commercial development projects from the previous year, all of which embody the Association’s mission to support responsible development.

In keeping with tradition, MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award recipients at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times.

In 2019, these seven projects distinguished themselves in design, construction, land-use, and added benefit to their communities.

Hannaford Center, Good Shepherd Food Bank (Hampden) which renovated the former Bangor Daily News printing press building, allowing the Food Bank to purchase and distribute more food, more frequently and efficiently to northern, central, and Downeast Maine.

Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve LLC (Arundel) for creating an overwhelming sense of place and cohesive design on a 300-acre project, using sustainable practices and natural landscapes.

62 Spring Street, Auburn Housing & Anew Development (Auburn), for its diversity and vibrancy, epitomizing the “Smart Growth” concept which successfully connects the dots between affordable housing, city walkability, economic energy, and downtown growth.

Founders Place Campus, Bangor Savings Bank and CJ Developers (Bangor), for the creative and extensive implementation of environmental systems and capacity to spur talented business growth to Bangor.

Southgate Avesta Housing (Scarborough), for the preservation and creative renovation of a 215 year-old farmhouse as a vibrant community of 38 safe, quality, and affordable homes through the incredible support of partners and donors.

Station Square, Great Falls Construction (Gorham), for the thoughtful and intentional preservation of Gorham’s historic identity as a railroad village, with equal emphasis on the community invitation to work, live, and play while employing Mainers.

WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Jonathan S. Cohen & 0 Hancock Street LLC (Portland), for a statement of responsible development, innovation, and modernity, using lean construction principles kept work flowing and the project on track, and continuously emphasizing sustainability and energy efficiency.

MEREDA thanks its Membership for their continued commitment to responsible development in Maine, and looks forward to formally and tangibly recognizing these Notable Projects when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, each project will be recognized with its own article in the Maine Real Estate Insider e-newsletter published by Mainebiz, running Summer of 2020.

For more information on these impressive projects, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2020 at 11:04 am · · Comments Off on Maine Real Estate & Development Association Names New President and Announces 2020-2022 Officers

Maine Real Estate & Development Association Names New President and Announces 2020-2022 Officers

Portland resident, Josh Fifield, a Senior Account Executive in the Business Insurance Department of Clark Insurance is the new president of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers. Founded in 1985, MEREDA promotes responsible development and ownership of real estate in Maine through legislative advocacy, educational programs and professional networking opportunities.

As a Senior Account Executive at Clark Insurance, a 100% Employee Owned insurance agency headquartered in Portland, Maine, Josh has over 16-years of experience as an advocate and trusted insurance advisor.   He developed an exceptional skill set starting his insurance career as an Underwriter for Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Company.

As an employee owner, he is responsible for the continued and successful growth of Clark Insurance by providing its customers with comprehensive business insurance solutions and related safety and risk management services. His focus is on the unique needs of New England’s real estate and development focused businesses, providing agency-wide services such as 24-hour claims assistance, competitive plans, exceptional customer service, and safety & risk consulting services.

An active member of his community, Josh has coached a variety of youth sports and has been the Safety Director for the Portland Little League.

In MEREDA, Josh started volunteering as a committee member on the Marketing & Membership Committee in early 2014. In 2017, Josh was recognized as one of two Volunteers of the Year. He has remained actively engaged as the co-chair of MEREDA’s Marketing & Membership committee and more recently as MEREDA’s Vice President of the Board of Directors.

Josh succeeds Gary D. Vogel, attorney at Drummond Woodsum who has led MEREDA for the past two years. “Gary’s steady leadership during these unprecedented times has shown how well MEREDA was able to quickly pivot in order to continue our statewide advocacy efforts and create informative and responsive virtual events including the MEREDA INDEX and COVID-19’s immediate impact to Maine’s development industry”, said Fifield. “I welcome the opportunity to help guide MEREDA through these challenging times, all the while continuing to maintain its unparalleled pursuit of advocating on behalf of its members.

“MEREDA also announced its 2020 / 2022 slate of officers which include President Josh Fifield of Clark Insurance, Vice Presidents Shannon Richards of Hay Runner and Craig Young of The Boulos Company, Treasurer Mark Stasium of Camden National Bank, and Secretary Shelly R. Clark, who also serves full time as MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations.

L-R: Josh Fifield, Shannon Richards, Craig Young, Mark Stasium, Shelly Clark

June 30, 2020 at 10:07 am · · Comments Off on Maine Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Town Meetings

Maine Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Town Meetings

Throughout the pandemic, MEREDA members have navigated participating in various town public proceedings conducted virtually. Now, with the opening of municipal buildings and the need to accommodate municipal matters requiring a public vote by town residents, Governor Mills and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) have released guidelines for holding town and public meetings during COVID-19, consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order 56 (Order 56).

For developers with projects that require ordinance amendments or contract zone approvals at town meeting, these provisions will affect how the town conducts the debate and vote on those matters.

The DECD guidance offers three options to allow towns to hold public meetings safely and effectively. The key requirements of each option are:

  1. Indoor or outdoor town meetings of 50 or fewer individuals. Under this option, town officials must limit the number of individuals that gather in a shared space. The town must have a backup plan to ensure that voters are not turned away in the event that the total number of participants exceeds 50, including voters, clerks, and town officials. Microphones should not be passed from person to person, and ballots should be collected by a ballot clerk with a collection receptacle rather than passed from hand to hand.
  1. Drive-in town meetings. If the number of attendees is anticipated to exceed 50 individuals, the DECD recommends organizing a drive-in meeting where individuals can remain inside their vehicles in an outdoor space where vehicles can be spaced a minimum of six feet apart. The outdoor space should have a clear entrance where voters check in upon arrival for voting, and voting should occur by distributing colored cards of sufficient size to allow “show of hands” voting through vehicle windows. Towns should ensure that there are appropriate social distancing procedures in place if an individual needs to exit their vehicle to use shared public facilities, such as restrooms, or to offer public comment.
  1. Indoor town meetings using multiple rooms within one facility. If the number of attendees exceeds 50 individuals, towns may choose to hold a meeting in different rooms within one facility, such as a school. Organizers should utilize technology to maintain the continuous ability for all voters in attendance to hear all discussions and motions, and to allow real-time voting in each meeting room. A deputy moderator should be present in each meeting room to facilitate voting. Gathering in common areas prior to or after the meeting should be discouraged.

The DECD also highlights a number of common practices that municipalities should follow across all three options described above, including:

  • All individuals should maintain six feet of distance at all times.
  • All individuals should wear face coverings at all times, but at a minimum during any interaction with an individual outside of their household group, such as during check-in. While the use of face coverings is strongly encouraged, officials may not turn away participants for failing to comply with the face-covering recommendation.
  • Individuals checking in voters and collecting and distributing ballots should wear a face shield in addition to a face covering.
  • Towns must provide a separate location for non-voters or members of the public to view and listen to the proceedings.
  • Towns should consider putting restrictions in place so that individuals who are at a higher risk of illness-e.g., those over age 65 or those with underlying medical conditions-are not responsible for checking in voters and/or collecting ballots. Towns should also train election workers on hand hygiene, social distancing guidelines, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and cleaning protocols.
  • If a town hosts a meeting indoors, then it must provide a separate space for isolating an individual who becomes ill during the meeting. Towns should also take steps to improve indoor air ventilation and prop open doors where possible to decrease the spread of germs.
  • In general, meeting organizers should take steps to notify the public of all policies and procedures through signage and other means of communication, modify traffic flows and eliminate lines, and provide adequate supplies for personal hygiene, including hand sanitizer and disinfecting soap.

If a municipality cannot comply with the gathering protocols outlined in the DECD guidance, the governor’s executive order also authorizes municipal officials to hold a vote on a matter at the ballot box instead of at an in-person town meeting.

May 12, 2020 at 9:44 am · · Comments Off on Construction Businesses: Navigating State and Federal COVID-19 Workplace Safety Requirements

Construction Businesses: Navigating State and Federal COVID-19 Workplace Safety Requirements

On April 28, Governor Mills released Restarting Maine’s Economy, which lays out a plan for re-opening non-essential businesses. Businesses that were previously deemed essential, including construction businesses, may continue operations – the Governor’s new plan does not impact them.

However, as the pandemic evolves, the State is shifting its attention to COVID-19 prevention and workplace safety. In light of this, this is a good time for construction businesses to review their workplace safety protocols to ensure compliance with the latest state and federal guidance on COVID-19 prevention.

Below are the compliance checklists and guidance documents that construction businesses need to follow as they continue operations and begin the summer construction season.

Maine

  • Department of Labor: Guidance for Construction Employers in Maine for Addressing COVID-19. This Department of Labor (DOL) guidance document provides recommendations and suggestions for construction businesses to implement COVID-19 prevention measures, including those in the DECD checklist. This DOL guidance includes, and overlaps with, much of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations for COVID-19, discussed below.

Federal

  • OSHA General Guidance: Preparing the Workplace for COVID-19. This comprehensive general guidance document covers OSHA recommendations for COVID-19 prevention for all business types.
  • This document classifies all job types for risk of COVID-19 infection. Most construction workers will fall under the low-risk category. OSHA has provided a useful one-page reference guide to understand worker classifications.  Construction businesses are expected to review the classifications and implement risk-appropriate controls and prevention measures.
  • OSHA Construction Business Guidance: COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce. This one-page guidance document provides an overview of the prevention controls and measures that all construction businesses need to implement based on the general guidance above.

To ensure full compliance, construction businesses are advised to refer to all four sets of guidance.  While there are overlaps among them, each one of them contains information that pertains to reducing workers’ risks of contracting COVID-19 on the worksite.

May 5, 2020 at 7:02 am · · Comments Off on Legislative Update from Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA)

Legislative Update from Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA)

While much has changed in the world in the past months, the MEREDA Public Policy Committee has continued to stay engaged on critical matters impacting our members. From ensuring a last-minute enactment of an extension to the Maine Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (MHRTC), to advocacy before the Governor’s office on state action related to COVID-19, the past few weeks have been active.

Before COVID-19 upended our lives, the Second Regular Session of the 129th Legislature was set to adjourn on April 15, 2020. However, as confirmed US cases began to rise in early March, the Legislature moved to adjourn on March 17, 2020. The early adjournment forced the Legislature to carry-over hundreds of bills to a future special session. Fortunately, working diligently with the Governor’s Office and Maine Revenue Services, MEREDA and the MHRTC Coalition were able to ensure passage of a two-year extension of the MHRTC. The extension also ensures that projects can continue construction and claim the credit past the sunset date, so long as they’ve been certified. The MHRTC extension was enacted in LD 2047, which became Public Law 2019, Chapter 659 on March 18, 2020. It will take effect on June 16, 2020.

Though there has been no legislation action since adjournment, the Governor’s Office and her administration have issued a number of orders related to COVID-19 that have significantly impacted Maine businesses, including MEREDA. To represent its members’ interests in some of these crucial policy decisions, MEREDA engaged directly with the Governor’s administration on ensuring the role of commercial real estate as an essential business, the need for flexibility in notarization requirements, and limitations on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically on rent and evictions, on April 14, 2020, MEREDA sent a letter to Governor Mills regarding her decision to impose limitations on eviction actions on both residential and commercial landlords. MEREDA encouraged the Governor not to take overbroad action, and emphasized that most commercial real estate landlords in Maine are small businesses who must also maintain a positive cash flow to meet financial obligations. Ultimately, the Governor placed a moratorium on evictions arising solely from failure to pay rent while continuing to allow evictions in cases of tenant misuse or misbehavior. MEREDA recently hosted a webinar on real estate issues during COVID-19, including discussion of the Governor’s order on eviction limitations. We will continue to stay engaged on this issue as it evolves and affects commercial real estate landlords, and will continue to responsibly advocate for our members as other issues arise in this rapidly changing environment.

While much has occurred in the past weeks, there is even more to be done as Maine considers reopening the economy. On April 28, 2020, Governor Mills released a four-phase plan to slowly restart the economy, with the first phase starting on May 1 and enabling some businesses to reopen. The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) will be posting checklist for businesses to follow in determining steps to secure their workplace for COVID-19 safety – check the DECD website for more news soon. The Governor’s complete plan for reopening the economy can be found here. In short, decisions about re-opening the economy in the phased plan will be based on the following four principles:

  • Protecting Public Health;
  • Maintaining Health Care Readiness;
  • Building Reliable and Accessible Testing; and
  • Prioritizing Public-Public Collaboration.

Even as businesses start to reopen under the phased plan, the state government must turn to facing the realities of the economic downfall on the state budget – which are likely to be dramatic and far-reaching. To help lawmakers understand just how much the budget is likely to be affected, Governor Mills has called upon the State’s economic forecasting officials to meet in July and August (instead of November and December), to examine the economic ramifications of the pandemic on Maine’s revenues. The Governor is likely to call legislators for a special session to address the anticipated budget shortfalls, but she may wait until after the July economic forecast to enable decision-making based on the new information about the state’s fiscal health.

MEREDA will continue to remain diligent in protecting its members’ interests as the state looks to reopen and the legislature looks for ways to address the anticipated revenue shortfall caused by this current pause in our state’s economic activity. Our members represent a critical pillar of the state economy, and we will continue to advocate for policies that are fair, practical, and predictable even as we navigate a new, post COVID-19 environment.

April 28, 2020 at 6:18 am · · Comments Off on Real Estate as an Essential Business – DECD Guidance and City of Portland Restrictions on Real Estate Activities 

Real Estate as an Essential Business – DECD Guidance and City of Portland Restrictions on Real Estate Activities 

On April 15, 2020 the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) released new guidance related to the operations of real estate as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic. DECD has considered real estate to be an essential business since the Governor’s announcement of a stay-at-home order limiting business activities, but had provided no guidance or clarity around what real estate activities were permissible or how they might be conducted in light of social distancing requirements. The guidance released on Wednesday speaks substantially to residential real estate, but it is vague on commercial real estate.

Additionally, on April 14, 2020, the Portland City Council voted to extend its own stay-at-home order and modify it to include a prohibition on real estate activities for certain multi-unit residential properties. Portland also issued further guidance for construction activities in the City.

Below is an overview of the DECD guidance as well as the City of Portland’s new restrictions on real estate and construction activities.

DECD Guidance on Real Estate as an Essential Business

The DECD guidance includes new restrictions and requirements for buyers and sellers of real estate, including commercial multi-unit properties of more than four units and all residential real estate. The guidance does not address buying and selling activities for other types of commercial real estate properties. Regardless, we recommend that transaction activities for those properties be conducted using social distancing guidelines and in-person contact should be limited to the maximum extent possible. The DECD guidance can be viewed here.

Per the state executive order, for real estate activities involving commercial multi-unit properties of more than four units, the following requirements are imposed:

  • Showings must be conducted virtually by the listing agent.
  • The listing agent must wear a cloth face covering, foot coverings, and gloves when entering a property.
  • Inspections must be completed by the building inspector only. Building inspectors must wear a cloth face covering, foot coverings, and gloves when entering a property.

For all residential real estate activities, the following requirements are imposed:

  • Agents and buyers must narrow down houses to “a few” to view.
  • An agent must “live stream” the viewing to the potential buyer from the property-the potential buyer may not be present. The agent must wear a cloth face covering and foot coverings (not gloves?) when entering a property.
  • A potential buyer may select one house for a walk through, with the approval of the seller.  Both the potential buyer and the agent must wear cloth face coverings, foot coverings, and gloves during the walk-through.
  • The purchase and sale agreement must be executed electronically.
  • Inspections must be completed by the building inspector only. Building inspectors must wear a cloth face covering, foot coverings, and gloves when entering properties.
  • Appraisers must use all efforts to avoid entering a property. If it is necessary to enter, the appraiser must wear a cloth face covering, foot coverings, and gloves.
  • Closing must take place using as many social distancing practices as possible.

City of Portland Extended Stay-at-Home Order and Further Restrictions on Real Estate Activities, Construction

In addition to the requirements contained in the DECD guidance, the Portland City Council voted on April 14, 2020 to extend its own stay-at-home order. In doing so, the city decreed that real estate agency activities shall not be allowed with regard to any occupied residential multifamily properties of more than four units, or with regard to an occupied residential multifamily property of four units or fewer in which the property owner is not a resident. The city’s order notes that all other real estate activities must comply with the DECD guidance outlined above.

The City also issued guidance on construction activities, which provides that only those construction activities and/or projects which were approved by the City on or before March 25, 2020 may continue their activities. Additionally, all persons on those projects must remain six feet apart on the construction site, to the maximum extent possible.

A copy of the April 14 City Council order is here.