But these aren’t the cookie cutter apartments of yore. Thin wires lining the hallways — meant for artwork — is one of the little tweaks in the design of Oak Street Lofts, a 37-unit building of efficiency apartments nestled in Portland’s arts district. The nearly $6.4 million project is nearing completion, and when it opens later this month it will be the first multifamily affordable housing building in the state to earn LEED Platinum certification for its especially low carbon footprint.
Oak Street Lofts is just one of eight Avesta Housing projects either in the queue or in various stages of construction.
The workload is large even for Avesta, the largest nonprofit housing agency in Northern New England, and comes at a time when there is still a strong need for affordable housing — and construction work — in southern Maine due to a still sluggish economy.
The ambitious wave of projects also comes as the group tries to heal bruises to its image caused by ties to controversially deficient low-income housing in the Norway area, as well as a three-year-old audit that questioned Avesta’s compliance with federal cost control standards.
“In the last 12 years, since I’ve been with Avesta, we’ve usually on average had two or three projects under construction at any given time,” organization president Dana Totman told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “This scenario, where we have six currently under construction, is double or triple that normal bulge of activity.”