Avesta Housing is getting set to break ground on this $15.5 million, 64-unit project in South Portland’s Red Bank neighborhood. The project deliberately coincides with a city effort to reconstruct a section of Westbrook Street. Both projects are designed to revitalize the neighborhood and create a more village-like feel. File

SOUTH PORTLAND — Two projects – one public, one private – working in tandem are designed to revitalize the city’s Red Bank neighborhood by adding new housing options and reconstructing Westbrook Street to provide for a more village-like feel.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved spending almost $1.6 million on the road project, which calls for rebuilding about 600 feet of Westbrook Street. The project was unanimously awarded to Shaw Brothers Construction, which was the low bidder, and will be paid for through a variety of sources, including Community Development Block Grants.

In the meantime, Avesta Housing is also investing $28.5 million in two new housing projects, one a 64-unit building, which is set to get underway, and a second 52-unit building next door. Tyler Norod, a development officer with Avesta, said this week that the first apartments should be ready to move into by spring of 2021.

Avesta is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “strengthen communities by promoting and providing quality affordable homes,” according to the agency’s website.

The city of South Portland is spending about $1.6 million to fully reconstruct about 600 feet of Westbrook Street. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Norod said Avesta and the city worked closely on moving the two projects forward together in order to help fulfill the vision of the West End Neighborhood Master Plan, adopted in 2017, which calls for “creating and maintaining a vibrant and sustainable neighborhood that will continue to be diverse and livable.”

Prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, Assistant City Manager Josh Reny told the Forecaster he sees the two projects as being “very transformational for the neighborhood. We really think it will change a lot up there.”

The Red Bank neighborhood was originally established during World War II as workforce housing for shipbuilders and their families, according to the master plan. It’s now “a tightly-knit, diverse community with a mix of apartments, townhouses and duplex homes” where over 90% of residents are renters, the plan states.

Overall, a memo provided to the City Council Tuesday said, both the road and Avesta projects will work together to “improve the quality of life for residents by creating a well functioning and welcoming neighborhood gateway and urban village area.”

No one from the public spoke about the road project Tuesday, and the Planning Board has already given site plan approval to both phases of the Avesta housing project.

The road project, according to documents provided to the City Council, includes reducing the width of the travel lanes to decrease the overall speed of traffic, adding sidewalks, street trees and street lighting, as well as a new bus stop, specially designed crosswalks and 16 new on-street parking spots.

Along with the new apartment units, Avesta is also creating ground floor retail, restaurant and office space, including space for The Opportunity Alliance and the Neighborhood Resource Hub. Community meeting rooms will also be included in the project, which will be built in two phases on just under two acres of land, Norod said.

He said the apartments will be a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units and that while most will be subsidized, 26 of the apartments will be market rate, in order to attract a diverse community of renters.

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