Avesta Tweaking Southgate Plans

Fewer, bigger units are envisioned for the Scarborough project in an effort to secure funding.

Keep Me Current

July 14, 2016

By Kate Irish Collins

Since an initial proposal to redevelop the historic Southgate House in Scarborough into affordable housing didn’t receive necessary funding last year, property owner Avesta Housing now is proposing a change in the unit configuration with the hope it will get funded this time around.

Seth Parker, Avesta’s director of real estate development, told the Current this week that the new plan is to offer more family-type housing for the property, located in Dunstan, upping the number of two- and three-bedroom units being offered. The change means the total number of units would be reduced from the original 50 to 38.

The Town Council was set to get an update on the proposed changes to the Southgate redevelopment project at a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, July 13, after the Current’s print deadline. Prior to the meeting Jay Chace, Scarborough’s senior planner, said his department is still “generally supportive of the project.”

He said the changes being proposed by Avesta are not “hugely different” and said there would be no changes to the site plan or the overall look of the project. That means, the council would not need to amend the contract zone it approved last year to allow the redevelopment to move forward.

While the goal is to still restore and preserve the historic Southgate House, both Parker and Chace said they felt it was important to update the council on the changes being proposed in order to keep everyone in the loop.

Parker said the goal of Wednesday’s workshop is to “keep the process transparent and to keep the council informed of what we are doing and why.”

For his part, Chace said the planning office may need to take a closer look at the overall impact of the project, from possible increased traffic and increased use of public utilities, but that shouldn’t impact the town’s support of Avesta’s plans.

In order to make the nearly $9 million project financially feasible, Parker said, Avesta needs to receive low-income housing tax credits from the Maine State Housing Authority, which has now made what he calls “significant changes” to its qualified allocations in favor of larger, family-sized units.

So in order to be competitive, he said, Avesta is adjusting the unit mix it originally proposed at the Southgate House.

Initially, the project included 27 studio and one-bedroom units. Now, Avesta is proposing a combination of 14 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units, with four studios and six one-bedroom units.

Avesta will also manage the Southgate House once the project is completed. Parker said rents for the two-bedroom units would range from between $700 and $1,000 a month, while the cost for the three-bedroom units would be between $800 and $1,200 a month.

In a memo from Avesta to the Town Council provided before Wednesday’s workshop, the company said, “This unit distribution will better serve the need for larger family units in Scarborough. All other elements of the redevelopment plan will remain, including the rehabilitation of the historic house and barns.”

In addition to changing the unit configuration for the project, Parker said, Avesta would add a sidewalk extension to the project, which would provide residents with “better pedestrian access to the nearby amenities.”

The sidewalk extension is also part of the bid to increase the competitiveness of the Scarborough project, Parker said. He said applications for the new round of low-income tax credits is due this fall and Avesta would expect to hear by the end of the year if it was successful in getting funding.

“If we are successful,” Parker said, ” construction would start in the summer of 2017,” with tenants likely moving in sometime in 2018.

This is the second affordable housing project in Dunstan. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland is currently constructing a 13-lot, single-family subdivision off Broadturn Road.

According to its website, Avesta owns or manages more than 2,200 apartments and operates an assisted-living facility in Gorham.

Looking for more?

Check out Avesta's blog, The Porch Light, for more news, updates and stories.

Contact Development and Communications Manager Sara Olson at 207-553-7780 x3352 or by email.