After Kennebunk Savings Bank bought an industrial building on Alewive Park Road and transformed it into its operations center, most of the surrounding land sat unused.

It quickly became clear that the land in Kennebunk could be put to better use by partnering with Avesta Housing to create much-needed affordable housing, said Brad Paige, the bank’s president and CEO.

“The back part of the property has just sat vacant since we bought it. We’ve always wanted to do something with it,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, the bank will donate the 12-acre parcel and $550,000 from its Huntington Common Charitable Fund to Avesta, Maine’s largest nonprofit affordable housing provider, to build 70 units of affordable housing for older residents. A second 12-acre parcel will be preserved as open space.

In order to move forward, the town has to approve a contract zone to allow for multifamily housing. The planning board has scheduled a July 24 public hearing on the application. But ultimately it will be up to voters to approve the change, likely during the November election.

The partnership is somewhat unique and very exciting, said Rebecca Hatfield, the president and CEO of Avesta. It will help address long waiting lists like the ones at Avesta, which saw the number of applications for housing double from 2020 to 2022.


“What we’ve seen since the pandemic is the need is truly at crisis levels in all urban, suburban and rural areas,” she said. “The need for housing, and particularly affordable housing, is greater than ever. The need is growing as rapidly in Kennebunk as in the towns in the Greater Portland area.”

Hatfield said it is too soon in the planning process to estimate when construction would begin and how much the project would cost.


The proposal comes at a time when developers and communities are trying to make a dent in the 22,500 affordable rental units needed across the state – an estimate tallied by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And for more than a decade, housing advocates have warned that Maine’s rapidly aging population needs at least 8,000 affordable and accessible apartments for people 55 and older.

The demand is especially strong in communities where affordable family homes are scarce and older residents want to downsize but are stuck because they can’t find apartments that would allow them to stay in town.

Recent affordable housing developments, including Avesta’s West End II apartments in South Portland and The Szanton Company’s Milliken Heights in Old Orchard Beach, were quickly filled. In Cumberland, town leaders set a goal to promote the development of 150 affordable housing units for people of various incomes and ages.


Avesta already has 82 affordable housing units in Kennebunk and is looking forward to expanding, Hatfield said. The current units include 54 for older adults and 28 with no age restrictions. More than 300 people are on the waitlist for Avesta housing in town.

The project on Alewive Park Road aligns well with the town’s comprehensive plan, which prioritizes affordable housing, project manager Henry Hess of Sebago Technics told the planning board last month. It also would preserve open space – the land near a reclaimed gravel pit will be donated to the Kennebunk Land Trust – and close a gap in the Eastern Trail by allowing it to run along the edge of the property.


The bank bought the property in 2014, a year after the William Arthur Stationery Company was sold and consolidated into a facility in Massachusetts. The 88,000-square-foot building was renovated into the bank’s main operations center, which has about 150 administrative employees. Kennebunk Savings is one of the largest employers in Kennebunk.

“The expansive space of the operations facility is sufficient to serve the immediate and short-term needs of Kennebunk Savings Bank,” Hess wrote in a letter to town officials. “There is no real benefit for Kennebunk Savings to hold onto vacant land areas south of their operations center.”

The proposal calls for the land to be divided into three lots – one for Kennebunk Saving’s building, one for affordable housing and one for the open space that will be donated to the land trust.


That lot has 350 feet of access on Alfred Road with the potential for off-street parking and an internal trail system. Avesta will use its 12-acre lot to build two apartment buildings with parking areas. Each building will likely have 35 units, but final plans need to be developed and approved by the town.

The new housing would be open to people 55 and older who make up to 60% of the area median income. It is important to build housing for older adults to ensure people can stay in their communities as they age, Hatfield said.

Paige said bank employees are excited about partnering with Avesta and being involved in something more tangible than cutting a check – the bank says it gives 10% of its annual net profit back to the community.

“To see something like that go up and understand the role the bank played in it, I think it’s a big deal for our employees,” he said.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.