Avesta adds 37 affordable apartments in Portland's West End

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PORTLAND — More than 100 people celebrated the comforts of home June 27 at the grand opening of Avesta Housing’s new apartment building at 17 Carleton St.

But no one celebrated more than Alan Lewis.

“I love my apartment big-time,” Lewis said during the ceremony behind the 37-unit West End building.

Lewis was one of the first tenants to apply for an apartment. He moved in just before last Christmas, coming back to the city after living in Yarmouth and Bangor.

The 23 one-bedroom, 12 efficiency and two, two-bedroom apartments are marketed to tenants who earn between 40 percent and 60 percent below the area median income; a one-bedroom unit is around $650 per month. 

The building was constructed over a parking lot, and followed Avesta’s purchase and rehabilitation of the former Butler School at 77 Pine St. into affordable housing.

Avesta Chairwoman Gail McBride said buying the building and lot was a risky move, but one necessary to help preserve affordable housing on the city’s West End.

Avesta was also granted tax increment financing in September 2015, with a 22-year credit enhancement agreement that returns 65 percent of the increases in property valuation to the nonprofit to offset operating costs. Recaptured valuations are projected to total $728,000 over the life of the agreement.

Between its Butler Payson and 17 Carleton St. projects, Avesta spokeswoman Sara Olson said the agency has invested more than $12 million.

The Carleton Street grand opening was also held to allow the agency to present its annual Mike Yandell Award to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston for its continued financing of Avesta projects.

Yandell, who died in 2008, was an Avesta chairman and president of Gorham Savings Bank.

Gorham Savings Bank has helped finance 10 Avesta projects using funds passed on from the Federal Home Loan Bank, Avesta President Dana Totman said. Other banks to provide financing include Norway Savings Bank, Bangor Savings Bank, Bath Savings and Meredith Village Savings Bank in New Hampshire.

In accepting the award, Ed Hjerpe, president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, said the bank sets aside 10 percent of its earnings annually to make grants for affordable housing; $18 million will be granted this year.

The grant program was established in 1990.

West End Neighborhood Association President Liz Parson said Avesta also complied with WENA’s mission of supporting a walkable, economically diverse neighborhood with “great architecture.”

Lewis, meanwhile, said he wanted into the Carleton Street building from the time he saw the foundation being poured.

“My heart was always in Portland,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Avesta Housing’s 37-unit aprtment house at 17 Carleton St. in Portland’s West End is marketed to renters earning 40-60 percent of the area median income.

Bennett Agnew was one of several tenants at 17 Carlton St. who opened their apartments to visitors  on July 27.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.