Portland’s first apartment building with a rooftop garden and four-season greenhouse marked its inaugural summer harvest with a reception that brought together the builder, supporters and residents.

“Somebody said to me, ‘Every building in downtown Portland should have one of these,’ and I completely agree,” said John Ryan of Wright-Ryan Construction. “To get a housing project approved with a rooftop garden takes tenacity.… And supporting a garden five stories up is something of a challenge for designers and builders.”

The apartment community, 409 Cumberland at the corner of Forest and Cumberland avenues, opened in January with 57 efficiency, one- and two-bedroom apartments, built with a focus on healthy living and energy efficiency.

“The residents support each other and are growing every single day, enjoying life and thriving,” said Chomba Kaluba, who named his patch of the greenhouse Peace Garden. The vegetables he harvests are enough for himself and two families.

The recent rooftop reception brought together Kaluba and other resident gardeners and representatives of Avesta Housing, Wright-Ryan, Cultivating Community and business sponsors and some of the individuals who, together, contributed $37,000.

“We really love this project, because it is an example of like-minded businesses that can create momentum in our communities,” said Hancock Lumber representative Erin Plummer, calling it a merger of “economics and heart.”


“We think it’s a model for what urban living can be,” said Craig Lapine, executive director of Cultivating Community, which runs other community gardens in Portland that are, unlike this one, open to the public.

“This is plenty of garden,” said Dave Colson, a Cultivating Community board member who owns New Leaf Farm in Durham. “These beds are intensively grown,” he added, pointing out tomatoes, broccoli, squash, herbs, beans and flowers.

“There are so many things I love about this place,” said Mary Taddia, who is growing tomatoes and basil and putting away pesto for the winter. “I hope this will be the first of many projects like it.”

“I had to move into this building because of the rooftop garden,” said Douglas McDonald, who had been a container gardener on Munjoy Hill. “This was a great opportunity to actually have a piece of dirt.”

“Getting this much soil up to the rooftop isn’t easy,” said Aaron Frederick, board president of Cultivating Community. “But there are a bunch of happy people who live here who are benefiting from this garden.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:


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