Developers hope to repeat success of South Portland congregate home

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Construction is underway in Knightville for a second congregate-care home scheduled to open next February or March.

In January, the City Council unanimously adopted a zoning change to allow the three-story home for adults with developmental disabilities at 14 E St.

The existing 1,600-square-foot home, built in 1900, is being gutted and, along with a nearly 4,500-square-foot addition, will be turned into a 10-bedroom facility. 

The home is being built next to 20 E St., which opened in May 2010, and was the first privately funded home for intellectually disabled adults in the state.

Massachusetts-based Specialized Housing, which has 11 other congregate homes for disabled adults in New England, developed and operates both homes.

So far, seven families have signed up to place residents in the expanded 14 E St. home, developers said, at a cost of $175,000 to $205,000 per bedroom. The families are also responsible for real estate taxes and a $2,100 monthly assessment for living expenses and staffing.

Mary Chris Semrow, of Cape Elizabeth, has a daughter at 20 E St. and works as a consultant for Specialized Housing.

“I love that they were able to keep the building so the neighbors will still see a similar profile that they always have,” Semrow said. “We wanted to maintain the integrity of the property.

“Knightville is a really unique place. It’s nice to see new business coming, but it is nice to see the architecture remaining the same.”

City Councilor Sue Henderson, who lives on E Street, said 20 E St. is a beautiful building and the people who live there are good neighbors.

Henderson also said the new building is designed to be in accordance with the neighborhood. 

The house will be “attractive” and “fit in with the neighborhood,” she said.

Peter Connell, site superintendent at Great Falls Construction, which is doing the work, said the building “is definitely going to keep its inherent charm.”

“A lot of people would have torn it down,” Connell said.

He also said “the residents (at 20 E St.) have touched my heart and the hearts of other employees. It’s a rewarding project all around.”

Semrow said with the two homes right next to each other, residents will have more opportunities to socialize.

She said she hopes it will be a rewarding experience for the residents to “be part of a neighborhood, be a part of South Portland and expand their world.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Nathaniel Smith, an apprentice with AP Concrete Floors of Gray, does some preparation work for a slab to be poured for the addition at 14 E St. in South Portland.