Riverton Park, a low-rent public housing family community in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland’s Riverton Park public housing complex is slated for a major redevelopment that would result in 40 new units of housing as well as upgrades to existing units and new community space.

“The buildings are really in dire need of being updated, both for energy efficiency and resident comfort,” said Brian Frost, executive director of the Portland Housing Authority. “Adding more affordable units is also key and something our board has asked us to look at.”

The Portland Planning Board on Tuesday got a first look at the housing authority’s plans, which call for rehabilitation of 21 buildings containing 123 townhouses, demolishing the existing administrative building and building a new neighborhood center, construction of a new maintenance building and general infrastructure improvements.

Four existing buildings with 24 units would be demolished and replaced with a four-story building containing 59 units. In all, the complex would grow from 141 units to 182.

In an interview prior to Tuesday’s board meeting, Frost said the existing townhomes will see ventilation and energy-efficiency upgrades; improvements to handicap accessibility; and new windows, siding, flooring and interior finishes.

The neighborhood center will house services and amenities including space for the Boys & Girls Club and a community policing liaison office, a multipurpose gym, community kitchen and a food and clothing pantry.


Frost said the project is expected to cost between $55 million and $60 million and could get underway next spring. He said Portland Housing is planning to utilize low-income housing tax credits and mortgage debt from MaineHousing to finance the work.

The project is the first substantial rehabilitation and renovation of Riverton Park since its construction in 1972. The complex, located at 2 Riverton Drive in the Riverton neighborhood, serves many low-income and immigrant families. Residents currently must earn 50% or less of the area’s median income – $43,900 for a family of four – to qualify for housing.

Rendering of the proposed rehabilitation at Riverton Park. CWS Architecture + Interior Design.

After the renovations, 90% of apartments will be affordable for households earning at or below 50% to 60% of the area’s median income, and 10% will be market-rate, with a majority of the market-rate units included in the new 59-unit building. Most units will be rented with federal rental subsidies, Frost said.

Planning Board member Marpheen Chann asked Tuesday whether the housing authority has done other mixed-income projects and if they have been beneficial.

Tyler Plante, a development officer for the authority, said it has done projects in the past with 80% affordable units and 20% market rate. He said the financing is part of the reason for including the market-rate units.

“At this property, one of the big drivers of that is we have residents that when we go to a tax credit project, some residents may make too much money to qualify, but we want to make sure those residents have options and can remain at Riverton Park,” he said. “By offering market rate we have options for those residents.


“We also want to encourage people to live at Riverton Park, too, and by having a number of different apartment types, those with vouchers, affordable apartments serving 60 percent of the area median income without a voucher and market rate, we can really serve the spectrum,” Plante said.

Tuesday’s Planning Board workshop was just a first look at the plans. Board members had some questions and concerns, but said they don’t foresee a need for significantly more review, though a formal public hearing and vote will need to occur.

“I don’t think this is something we need to spend a lot of time reviewing,” said board member Sean Murphy. “It’s basically rehabilitating an existing facility for the most part.”

“I’m really excited for this project,” said Chair Maggie Stanley. “As was commented on and as a lot of people already know, this is a very neglected development and the renovations will make people’s lives a lot better. And we’re getting … new housing, which is always a plus.”

In other news Tuesday, the board gave unanimous approval to a major site plan for the University of Southern Maine’s Center for the Arts. The $63 million, 40,000-square foot performing arts center would be located at 111 Bedford St. and include a 200-seat performance hall, rehearsal room and classrooms.

Corey Hascall, vice president of the USM Foundation, said the university is hoping to begin construction this summer and complete the project by late summer 2025.

“This has been a decades long dream of USM to build an arts center on campus, and we’re excited for students, USM and for the city of Portland,” Hascall said.

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