The state’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developer is looking to build as many as 40 apartments for seniors at the end of a dead-end residential street in Portland.
Avesta Housing would like to build 25 to 40 units of affordable senior housing on a little more than a half acre of land it has under contract to buy at the end of Powsland Street, said Mindy Woerter, the company’s communications manager.
“We are in the very early stages, so we don’t have many details to share at this point,” Woerter said. “We feel that the location of this site – with its proximity to the Portland Transportation Center, Portland Trails system, medical offices and retail – make it well-suited for residential development.”
Avesta Housing will hold a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Clarion Hotel to get feedback from residents before submitting a formal plan to the city.
Avesta’s project would include five home lots at 73-91 Powsland St., Woerter said.
The property is in a B-5 urban commercial mixed business zone, which allows for dense developments of a wide range of residential, industrial, marine and commercial uses.
No minimum front, side or rear setbacks are required. Building heights are capped at 65 feet, except in certain designated areas.
There is a substantial need for affordable senior housing in Maine and in Portland, according to Dana Totman, Avesta Housing’s president and chief executive officer.
Avesta Housing currently has two affordable senior housing developments, totaling 76 units, in Portland, Totman said. There are 326 people on a waiting list for those housing units – Butler Payson Apartments at Pine and State streets and East Bayside apartments at 47 Smith St., he said.
“The waiting list just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Totman said. “There is just a huge need.”
Avesta has not drafted any renderings of the building or submitted an application to the city for the project, which would not get underway until late 2015 at the soonest, Totman said.
But already there is opposition from some neighbors.
The leading opponent is Dale Holman, who lives on nearby Willow Lane in a subdivision of homes built in the late 1990s. Properties in the neighborhood are valued for tax purposes between $200,000 and $250,000.
Holman, whose home is next to the project location, opposes Avesta’s proposal because he doesn’t want affordable housing in a market-rate neighborhood, and he fears the project will result in additional water problems on his property. After significant rainstorms, water floods to within 4 feet of his garage, he said.
“It just really doesn’t go with the neighborhood,” said Holman, who indicated that about a half-dozen other area residents oppose the project.
Much of Holman’s oppositions stems with a conflict he had with a previous developer.
Holman said he spent $12,000 to bring a civil lawsuit against Gorham Sand & Gravel, which cleared the lot of trees without the necessary permits and caused water to back up on his property.
Powsland Street resident Charles Pollack said he also opposes the project, because of increased traffic and potential impacts on the nearby Fore River.
“I wasn’t happy about development down there,” said Pollack. “(Powsland) should be a quiet dead-end street, because of the watershed.”
According to city assessing records, there are more than 20 residential properties – a mixture of single and multifamily buildings – on Powsland Street, which is located off Congress Street.
Seth Parker, Avesta’s director of real estate development, said one corner of the property is located in a shoreland zone, so the final design would seek to minimize and address any environmental impacts.
City Councilor Edward Suslovic, who represents the district, said he supports the project. Senior housing would be less of a neighborhood disruption in terms of traffic and noise than other commercial or industrial uses allowed in the zone, he said.
“Based upon what (Avesta) shared with me, I think it could be a real plus for the neighborhood,” Suslovic said. “Seniors aren’t known for late-night boisterous keg parties.”
Totman said housing for seniors also generates less traffic than other housing. “Our experience shows that seniors don’t travel by car as much or as often as families,” Totman said.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @randybillings