BELFAST — City councilors voted July 6 to accept and endorse the Brownfields Revitalization Study completed by Camoin Associates. The study found that there is demand for more affordable housing units and more types of housing, but not much of a return to entice a developer unless costs are subsidized, Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said.

The survey examined the downtown area and city-owned land in and around the old Public Works site at 115 Congress St. It was paid for with money from a federal Environmental Protection Agency brownfield grant.

The study ran different scenarios for new construction and existing structures within the study area and found that, with current rehabilitation costs and expected lease rates, there is not an adequate return for housing developments, Kittredge said. “Just looking at it, kind of unsubsidized, no incentives, no grants, the numbers don’t currently achieve a reasonable rate of return,” he said. “I was hoping some of the scenarios would show that, so we can let people know where they may want to invest, but that was kind of a wake-up call as well.”

There is market demand potential for 150 housing units over the next five years, according to the study, which found that barriers to new housing construction include high property taxes, high construction costs, speculative land prices and an unproven housing market.

The study also looked at demand for office and manufacturing space, and found there is little demand for either of those on a large scale, Kittredge said. There was some demand for small-scale office and manufacturing space. He thinks Belfast can be more competitive for smaller developments.

Despite interest from Nordic Aquafarms, which has proposed a land-based fish farm, in developing in Belfast, it is not typical to have larger developments like Nordic’s approach the city, Kittredge said. The town wants to work with large manufacturers interested in locating here, but he does not see much interest in Belfast.

“Our economic foundation really is small businesses and microbusinesses,” he said. “So, that is part of our strategy and the types of things we want to attract. We want to have a large number of diverse businesses in Belfast on an ongoing basis. I think that’s also where we can be more competitive than trying to compete for larger manufacturing facilities.”

Camoin is also completing a revitalization plan for the city, which is expected to be done by the end of July and accepted by the council at an August meeting, Kittredge said. The plan is built upon the study. It is more targeted toward creating policy and prioritizing city projects. Kittredge expects there will be an emphasis on affordable housing in the plan. “I wouldn’t say it’s exclusively about housing, but that’s certainly on people’s minds; that usually comes up as a discussion,” he said.