Susan Morris and Chip Newell
Susan Morris and Chip Newell prepare to entertain on the deck of their Munjoy Hill condominium, with the Portland Observatory in the background at center. Newell, 68, and Morris, 55, are the developers behind 118 on Munjoy Hill, the luxury condominiums built on Congress Street at the crest of the Hill.​ Shawn Patrick Ouellette/ Staff Photographer

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ondominium developers in Washington, D.C., Chip Newell and Susan Morris had a very specific list of what they were looking for in a home in Portland.
The husband and wife wanted indoor parking for two cars, an elevator, deck space, big windows and tall ceilings, all on one level in a state-of-the-art building.
When they couldn’t find a condo that met their criteria, they built it – and 11 others.
Newell, 68, and Morris, 55, are the developers behind 118 on Munjoy Hill, the luxury condominiums that rose out of a parking lot on Congress Street at the crest of the hill.
Although the project has drawn mixed reviews, there’s no denying they have added value to the neighborhood and the city as a whole, from their contribution to the tax base to their involvement in the community.
“A lot of the fear was rich people from away buy these places, come in for the weekends, go to the expensive restaurants and not give back,” said Morris, noting that she and her husband are more likely to be found at Otto’s than Hugo’s.

Much to their delight, the people who bought the other condos in their building, which started at $600,000, include a new surgeon at Maine Medical Center, local business owners and a couple with a teenager who moved from the suburbs.

Newell and Morris ended up in Portland by way of Boothbay Harbor, where they started spending summers 12 years ago before moving there year-round.

Whether for shows or food or board meetings, they found themselves constantly driving into the city or wishing it was closer so they could. Then they realized that’s where they wanted to be.

Susan Morris and Chip Newell in their Munjoy Hill condominium. The couple ended up in Portland by way of Boothbay Harbor, where they started spending summers 12 years ago before moving there year-round.​ Shawn Patrick Ouellette/ Staff Photographer

“Portland has everything we could want in a much more convenient, hassle-free manner than a larger city,” Newell said.

They love being able to walk a couple of blocks to East End Beach, where they keep their kayaks, or ride their bikes downtown to do errands. They get coffee at the Hilltop and breakfast at the Front Room. Aside from the views, it was the friendliness of the community that drew them to Munjoy Hill, a place they want to be a part of. And when they want to get away, it’s a 75-minute drive to their vacation home in Boothbay Harbor.

“Chip and I, every day, literally do this,” Morris said, pinching her arm.

Although they’ve received positive feedback about the building, they know there are people who think it and other modern projects in the neighborhood don’t fit in. To that, Newell argues, new buildings are supposed to look “of their time,” not trying to fake an older style.

Also, before these recent projects, he said, the only housing being built on Munjoy Hill was subsidized, which developments like his can help pay for through taxes.

“A city needs both,” he said.

And, judging by how fast their condos and others have sold, there’s a demand for it.

“The city is ready for this,” Morris said.

Jane Footer spends time at Deering Oaks park
Jane Footer spends time at Deering Oaks park, where she likes to read. Footer had to leave her apartment on Wilmot Street when the building’s new owner decided to do renovations. After a long search for a new place to live, part of which she spent in a homeless shelter, Community Housing of Maine placed her in a studio apartment at a subsidized senior housing complex on Danforth Street, where she pays $300 a month plus the electric bill. “I’m very, very happy and grateful,” she said. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/ Staff Photographer

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hen Jane Footer, 60, was in college at the University of Southern Maine, she and many of her friends lived in apartments in Parkside, then an affordable, centrally located neighborhood.

Now she feels like the Oxford Street homeless shelter is one of the only places left in the city for her and her peers.

“Frankly, they’d like to see us all out in Westbrook,” she said.

Footer had been living in an apartment on Wilmot Street for years when she was notified in April that the run-down building was being sold and renovated, and she’d have to leave.

She stayed at a friend’s apartment for several months, but the landlord there didn’t approve, so for two months this summer she was at the shelter, looking for a new place to live.

Footer, who has struggled with alcoholism and depression throughout her life, felt like she had an advantage over many others because she’s been sober for a year.

But it wasn’t easy for her, carrying around the belongings she could fit in a backpack. The arguing, stealing and violence around her was upsetting. She tossed and turned all night on her mat on the floor among other women.

“It’s awful. It’s uprooting and extremely stressful,” she said. “You feel like you’re lost.”

Footer said she needs structure, a daily routine. She’s on disability because of depression and had a Section 8 Housing voucher with which she could afford rent of about $860 a month – not an easy price point in Portland.

Footer didn’t want to leave the city. She likes to bring her dog, Timmy, to East End Beach every morning and likes to read in Deering Oaks park.

She said she doesn’t blame the developer for wanting to make money off her former building, but she wishes there were places in Portland for people like her to live, too.

“It’s very hard to see new people move into town from another state in search of paradise,” she said.

In October, after two months at the shelter, Footer was placed through Community Housing of Maine in a studio apartment at a subsidized senior housing complex on Danforth Street, where she pays $300 a month plus the electric bill.

“I’m very, very happy and grateful,” she said. “It’s a lovely place.”