Redevelopment plan scaled back for Portland's Adams School

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PORTLAND — Reacting to changing housing needs in the city and limited funding options, an affordable housing developer has scaled back plans for redevelopment of the Marada Adams School on Munjoy Hill.

Avesta Housing in July 2008 proposed building 40 condominium units consisting of a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings on the former school property. Plans for the so-called Beckett Green project also called for a public park.

The project stalled, however, when subsidies Avesta was counting on to help fund construction dried up.

“Unfortunately, the economy went in the wrong direction,” said Ethan Boxer-Macomber, a development officer for Avesta. He said housing authorities also shifted their focus from funding home ownership projects to funding rental projects.

For the past year, the city and Avesta have been waiting for federal stimulus money to make it through federal and state approval processes. The city has $1.3 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for the Adams School reuse, and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has earmarked another $400,000.

Avesta is scheduled to go before the city Housing Committee March 31 to present revised plans for the Adams School property and to ask the committee to recommend to the full City Council that the $1.7 million in stimulus money be approved for the project so it can move ahead. Total cost for the project is $5.5 million.

The revised Beckett Green project proposes construction of two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings with a total of 16 affordable units – eight two-bedrooms and eight three-bedrooms. One of the buildings would run along Vesper Street between Moody and Wilson streets and the other, identical building would be behind the first building.

The elimination of the one-bedroom units, Boxer-Macomber said, is a result of there being a surplus of similar, affordable units already on the market.

At roughly the middle of the property, Avesta would put in a greenway, connecting O’Brion Street with Beckett Street. A playground would be built along Wilson Street.

The remaining property, at the Munjoy Street end, would remain city-owned.

Avesta is proposing to pay the city $240,000 for the land it plans to develop. The greenway and playground space would be given back to the city, Boxer-Macomber said.

Additional housing on the Munjoy Street end of the property could happen in the future, according to plans submitted to the city.

Units would be available to buyers who qualify under income guidelines for affordable housing. The income of a family interested in purchasing one of the Avesta units would have to be at or below 120 percent of the area median income. That’s about $65,000 for a family of two and $82,000 for a family of four.

Units would sell for approximately $215,000 for a two-bedroom and $260,000 for a three-bedroom.

Avesta is asking the Housing Committee to send its revised plan, with approval of the NSP funds, to the full council for consideration in April.

If the funding is approved, the developer will still have to get Planning Board approval. Boxer-Macomber said construction could start in early 2011 and would take six to eight months to complete.

The Housing Committee meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 209 at City Hall.

The Marada Adams Elementary School closed in 2006, when the East End Community School opened.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or

Sidebar Elements

A 16-unit affordable housing development is being proposed for the former Marada Adams School site. The developer, Avesta Housing, has scaled back its original plan for 40 units.