Bangor Daily News
By Seth Koenig
May 16, 2014
WESTBROOK, Maine — When Maine school districts seek to modernize or create efficiencies by replacing or vacating old buildings, it creates opportunities for developers looking to feed the state's hunger for more housing.
"I watch local council meetings and school board deliberations closely, and when they start to talk about school consolidations, I immediately start to think about how those structures can be reused," said Dana Totman, president of Portland-based Avesta Housing.
The latest example of the thriving school-to-home movement was on display Friday in Westbrook as Avesta hosted its ceremonial grand opening of the $9.5 million Hyacinth Place, a 19th century parochial school and convent redeveloped into an energy-efficient 37-unit affordable housing campus.
While Avesta is not the only development firm taking advantage of empty schools to help meet Maine's housing demand, it's arguably the most prolific.
New England's largest nonprofit housing developer acquired and renovated the former Shailer and Emerson schools in Portland — now part of a single Munjoy Commons housing campus — and rebuilt Biddeford's former Emery School and Kennebunk's former Cousens and Park schools as housing projects.