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Asbestos removal starts Monday for Adams School housing project


The long-awaited $5.5 million conversion of the abandoned Adams School on Munjoy Hill into affordable housing finally gets off the drawing board and enters the asbestos removal phase Monday.

Portland Daily Sun

By David Carkhuff

The long-awaited $5.5 million conversion of the abandoned Adams School on Munjoy Hill into affordable housing finally gets off the drawing board and enters the asbestos removal phase Monday.

This Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Shailer School Community Room, basement of 56 North St., neighbors can learn about the 16-unit Avesta affordable housing development at the former Adams Community School site.

Avesta’s demolition team as well as representatives of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the city of Portland will be on hand to present the project to residents and answer questions.

At least one neighbor is eager to see the demolition and construction completed.

"I think it's a better use than what it is now," said Eric Stark, a member of the City Council's community committee that reviewed the project. Stark lives near the old school, which is graffitied and surrounded by weeds.

"The city obviously needs housing, the fact that it's middle-income housing, I think, is a good use," Stark said. "It would have been nice if they could have found a use for the building, but I know a couple of developers, architects and community members tried that, and it didn't seem to work."

The formal Adams School redevelopment process dates back to a 2008 city request for proposals for site redevelopment. Avesta won that RFP process, with a plan to buy the entire 1.5-acre site for $600,000 and put up 40 affordable homes. But with the economic downturn and housing market collapse, that plan was put on hold.

Now, with a $1.7 million federal stimulus grant, Avesta has scaled back; the nonprofit affordable housing developer invested in about three-quarters of one acre for $250,000 with plans to build 16 townhomes, said Ethan Boxer-Macomber, Avesta Housing senior development officer. Total development cost is $5.5 million, he said.

After months of review, the project now hits the ground.

Asbestos removal begins Monday and should last two weeks, Boxer-Macomber said. In the 1958 building, all of the floors are asbestos tile, so experts will go in and remove the hazardous material, Boxer-Macomber explained.

"Once the abatement is complete and all of the asbestos is out and the building is clear, we'll shift to the demolition phase," he said.

Avesta expects three weeks of demolition.

An April 26 neighborhood meeting was held to explain the project, but Boxer-Macomber said he still heard questions in the neighborhood, so Avesta set up this Thursday's neighbors' meeting. Postcards were circulated to residents inviting them to attend.

"What we're doing on Thursday is to specifically let the abutters know what's going on in terms of the demolition," Boxer-Macomber said.

In conjunction with building the new housing, Avesta plans to develop a park, which will be owned by the city, he said. Namesake of the school, teacher Marada Adams, will remain a presence on the hill. The name of the park will be Marada Adams Park, Boxer-Macomber said.

It's still unclear what the housing development itself will be called, however. A private way will run through the development, and "the branding of the property likely will follow suit from naming of the interior road," Boxer-Macomber said. The actual name hasn't been chosen yet, he said.

"We're working on that with the city, trying to come up with a good one," Boxer-Macomber said.

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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.