A historical farmhouse on U.S. Route 1 has recently been converted into affordable housing. Contributed

SCARBOROUGH — Avesta Housing celebrated the opening of its Southgate Farm residence Oct. 23, completing a five-year effort to add 38 affordable living units to the town’s tight housing market.

“We know from our work here in southern Maine that there is a desperate need for housing, and we’re having a hard time filling the need at this current rate,” Avesta Development Officer Tyler Norod said in an interview Oct. 28. “There is a lack of workforce housing in Scarborough, so it made sense to be looking in this area.”

The 214-year-old farmhouse, located on U.S. Route 1, was purchased by the nonprofit affordable housing provider in 2014, and project plans were submitted to the town in 2015.

The celebration included an opening ceremony, speakers and apartment tours.

The property, deemed one of 48 historically significant properties in the town in 2014, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. The designation, Norod said, allowed Avesta to use tax credits as a way to finance the project, but did present some challenges with renovations.

“There is a very detailed review process for what can and cannot be done with historical homes, down to the type of mortar you can use on the bricks and what type of windows you can use,” he said. “It was important for us to keep intact the historic integrity of the building.”

The property was originally built in 1805 by Robert Southgate, Norod said, and has had a variety of uses over two centuries, including a “gentleman’s farm” and country retreat, a restaurant and inn, and rental housing.

“(Southgate) owned this property and most of Dunstan Corner, and the property was added on to it in the mid-1800s,” he said. “He was an important figure in this town’s history — he was a judge, a doctor, an entrepreneur. He was a Renaissance man who wore a lot of hats.”

The residence has eight, one-bedroom apartments, four studios and six, one-bedroom apartments, along with 12, two-bedroom senior units in the main house. There are also eight two-bedroom non-age-restricted apartments. Norod said the qualifying income range for residents would be $27,000 to $43,000, depending on the number of people in the household.

According to an Oct. 22 press release, Avesta worked closely with its development team, including architect GodutiThomas Architects of Portland and builder Benchmark Construction of Westbrook, to preserve the historic integrity of the farmhouse while adding a new building designed to complement the original building.

“This is a project that involved both historic rehab and new construction, which made it a unique project for us,” Avesta Vice President of Real Estate Development and Management Rebecca Hatfield said in an interview Oct. 28. “It’s something we really like doing and we feel good knowing we’re doing something for the town and to preserve its history and repurpose it for a good cause.”

According to Sara Olson, director of Development and Communications at Avesta, funding for the $8 million project came from MaineHousing, Boston Capital, Bangor Savings Bank, Community Housing Capital, NeighborWorks America, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

The Scarborough Housing Alliance, which works to find affordable housing solutions in town, also granted the project $100,000.

Residents first began moving into Southgate at the end of May, Olsen said, and all units have been filled as of Oct. 29. However, she said, Avesta continues to accept inquiries for the property and maintains a waiting list. In total, according to the press release, Avesta received 1,600 requests from seniors for affordable housing in 2018, up 21% from the previous year.

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