Windham Independent, November 16, 2006
By Michelle Libby
After a little over three years and $3.3 million, Avesta Housing Management Corporation formally finished its latest project in Windham with a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon. Overlooking the Presumpscot River, the
Little Falls Landing Apartments in South Windham provides seniors an opportunity to live in new residences where maintenance is handled for them, as is some of the rent.
The building contains 24 elderly, subsidized apartments on three floors, filling a need for more affordable housing for seniors, said Linda Poland, leasing and compliance manager for Avesta Housing. The building is the first of Avesta's projects to be completely smoke free. It also used "green materials," like Energy Star appliances, and recycled all of its leftover construction materials. Each 540-squarefoot apartment is full of light and complete with appliances, rugs and hooks on the walls. Many of the units have views of the river and three have special modifications for disabilities.
"This is our end goal," said Deb Keller, the development officer for Avesta on the project. "To have all the residents moving in." Some residents will start as early as next week, but most will take occupancy on Dec. 1.
At the ceremony, future residents eagerly awaited their new homes.
"I've been watching this go up," said Florence Albison, a soon to be resident. "It's a beautiful place. I've been on the list for two years. It'll be nice to have my own apartment."
One interesting story is that of Bob and Alice Miele who plan to move in as soon as they're allowed, Alice said. Alice, 82, ran a daycare and said she's looking forward to being with people her own age. Both are looking forward to a smaller place, a smaller financial burden, and not having to shovel snow or rake leaves. It's also a homecoming for the couple. The Mieles ran Patsy's General Store on Main Street in South Windham for years. The building where they lived and worked, which is apartments now, borders Little Falls Landing. There is even a painting of their former home hanging in the community room of the building.
"It's worthwhile to be able to contribute this to the town of Windham and add a spark of development to South Windham," said Dana Totman, CEO and president of Avesta Housing. "Windham is arguably our favorite community to do housing in," Totman said. Avesta has 1,200 residential units in Southern Maine, he said, with three facilities now in Windham. For every project there are several sources of funding. For this project Avesta received help and funds from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Gorham Savings Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank, Bank of Boston and Maine Housing. The funding means Avesta does not to have pay a mortgage for the property.
"This project really represents a partnership. The town of Windham has been unbelievably supportive as have the residents," said Keller, who added that the Gawron Turgeon Architects' building design is a good fit for South Windham.
The project is the beginning of the revitalization of that part of town, said Windham Town Council Chair John MacKinnon.
Geoff Mitchell was the project manager for Payton Construction in Saco who built the building in about a year. "You couldn't ask for a better owner (than Avesta) to work with," Mitchell said. Payton Construction also built Unity Gardens on Route 115 in Windham.
Residents of the new apartments have to meet certain guidelines. A one person household would need to make under $23,850 a year, a two-person income must be less than $27,300, which is 50 percent of the area's median income, and must be over 62 years old, according to Poland. The average income for the new residents is $12,000 and they will pay 30 percent of their income in rent. Units are still available and a waiting list will be started when the facility is full. Avesta also manages New Marblehead Manor on Oak Lane and Unity Gardens in Windham. They will be opening eight new properties this year in Maine. "It's been a busy year," Keller said. No more Avesta housing projects are slated for Windham currently, but Keller said don't count them out for the future.
The ribbon cutting ceremony gave many residents the chance to get to know one another and to begin realizing the dream of many different organizations that have worked to compete the project. "Having folks moving in here is why we do what we do," said Totman.