River Turn Woods celebrated with groundbreaking

CONWAY, NH — Avesta Housing celebrated its first affordable housing development in Mount Washington Valley on Sept. 23 with a groundbreaking ceremony featuring development, legislative, and financial partners.

When completed, River Turn Woods will provide 156 new homes to the Conway area. The first phase, consisting of 40 new homes, is expected to be completed by summer 2023. The development is located near the Technology Village Business Resource Center on Route 16 (White Mountain Highway).

“Avesta is honored to be part of this vibrant community that holds such a rich history, and we are proud to be able to bring much-needed affordable housing to the area,” said Avesta Housing President and CEO Rebecca Hatfield. “We recognize that New Hampshire and Maine are experiencing a dire and unprecedented affordable housing crisis, and we are committed to doing everything we can to address that challenge.”

Also speaking at the event were Patrick Hess, Avesta Housing director of real estate development; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; and Diane Donaldson, senior vice president with Bangor Savings Bank.

In addition to those listed above, Avesta thanks the following for their support and expertise in helping to make this development and groundbreaking event a reality: Attitash Ski Resort, WNC, Federal Loan Home Bank of Boston, the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, the Town of Conway, Preti Flaherty, the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, State Sen. Jeb Bradley, Lassel Architects, Hutter Construction Corp., and HEB Engineers Inc.

Avesta Housing is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as a leader in affordable housing development and services. Its portfolio includes 110 affordable housing properties with a total of 3,200 apartments housing nearly 5,000 residents. River Turn Woods is one of several Avesta developments under construction that will collectively provide more than 700 new affordable homes to Maine and New Hampshire.

Participants celebrate the development of River Turn Woods, a new Avesta Housing affordable housing development in Conway, N.H., with a ceremonial groundbreaking. (L-R): Jay Muth, vice president of community development, Bangor Savings Bank; Diane Donaldson, senior vice president of commercial lending, Bangor Savings Bank; Ben Belanger, senior assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Maggie Hassan; Chuck Henderson, special assistant for policy and projects for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Rob Dapice, executive director and CEO of New Hampshire Housing; Rebecca Hatfield, president and CEO of Avesta Housing; Andy Dean, chair of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition; David Ciminelli, vice president of originations, WNC & Associates; Patrick Hess, director of real estate development, Avesta Housing; John Eastman, town manager, City of Conway; Lars Traffie, president, Hutter Construction; Sarah Hourihane, principal architect, Lassel Architects; and Michal Kaleta, project manager, Lassel Architects (Photo by Cheryl Senter/New Hampshire Housing)

Deering Place mural pays homage to residents and community

One of the unique aspects of Deering Place, Avesta Housing’s new affordable housing development in downtown Portland, is the use of art to decorate interior and exterior space. Several local artists provided work to bring Deering closer to the pulse of the community and make it a warm, welcoming home to residents.

Among the more striking pieces is a large-scale mural on the wall of the exterior parking garage. Greeting motorists as they pull into the space, the work consists of two parts: A sign that bids “welcome” in five languages and a larger sign that reads “Deering Place” with images inside the letters.

The mural is the work of Ryan Adams, who over the past decade has become one of the most in-demand artists for businesses and public spaces in Maine and elsewhere. Through his art, the Portland native tells the story of a location that is educational while aesthetically pleasing.

For the Deering Place mural, Ryan created a design that is a nod to traditional postcards with big block letters representing the advertised location. That meant not only references to Portland (Monument Square, a lobster) but references to residents’ home countries (African textile patterns, a desert scene, a woman wearing a hijab).

The intent was to capture the diversity of the resident population, which includes everyone from native Mainers to recent immigrants. Residents were invited to give their input as to what the design should incorporate, and were shown sketches to ensure the depictions were accurate.

Deering Place residents and staff will recognize a familiar face in the last letter, “E”: Maintenance technician Matt Lorello. Ryan was asked to paint something that depicted a traditional Mainer. He found his muse in Matt. “Once I met him, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s perfect!” Ryan said.

For Ryan, working at Deering Place was more than just a job. It was an honor.

“Having the chance to make something that hopefully represents the residents and their cultures or where they’re from was very special to me,” Ryan said. “It’s not a public piece; it’s just for the residents of this building. That’s a layer that I don’t often have.”

For more information about Ryan and his art, visit his website: ryanwritesonthings.com


New apartments may soon be available for asylum seekers in greater Portland

New apartments may soon be available for asylum seekers and their families.

Right now, Avesta Housing is negotiating the rental terms with the developers for two properties in greater Portland.

Asylum seekers from Angola say they’re eager to apply for the new apartments.

The state will pay the rent for the apartments until the asylum seekers are able to secure jobs, and it will cost a lot less than the public dollars being shelled out to local hotels.

Avesta Housing works to finalize plans for 100 new apartments for asylum seekers

Avesta Housing is working to finalize plans to provide 100 new apartment units for asylum seekers staying in Portland area hotels.

Right now, homeless shelters in the area are full and hundreds of asylum seekers are staying in overflow hotels that cost roughly $240 a night.

“That’s very costly to the city and the state and the government, and so, the quicker we can move them out of hotels, the more money we can save,” Avesta Housing executive director Dana Totman said.


Avesta Housing plans apartments for asylum seekers in South Portland, Portland

Avesta Housing is negotiating contracts to provide 100 apartments for asylum seekers now receiving emergency shelter in Greater Portland hotels.

The permanent housing will be located in projects under construction in Portland and South Portland, but Avesta and state officials aren’t saying exactly where they are or who’s building them.

The rents will be funded with a portion of the $22 million that the Legislature earmarked in the biennial state budget to address emergency housing needs across Maine. The cost of the apartments hasn’t been announced, but it’s expected to be a lot less than the $200 to $300 per night that MaineHousing and other agencies are paying for hotel rooms.

“That cost is just not sustainable,” said Dana Totman, Avesta Housing’s executive director. “Part of what we’re doing is going to save significant public dollars.”



Federal tax changes would ease Maine’s affordable housing shortage, says one developer

A group called “Up for Growth” released a study last month that found Maine was about 9,000 affordable housing units short in 2019.

The Portland-South Portland region alone was said to be some 8,000 affordable housing units short.

Morning Edition Host Irwin Gratz talked recently with Dana Totman, President of Avesta Housing, who says the problem is much worse and the solution requires more government funding:



Construction begins on River Turn Woods in New Hampshire

Our development team has closed on the land acquisition and construction financing for the first phase of River Turn Woods in Conway, N.H., and construction is underway. A groundbreaking ceremony is tentatively scheduled for September.

When completed, River Turn Woods will provide 40 new homes (30 affordable and 10 market rate) to the Conway community. The lease-up process is anticipated to begin in August 2023.

6 Mainebiz Women to Watch alumni tell us what’s next

As Mainebiz inaugurates another group of inspiring Women to Watch in 2022, we checked in with some of last year’s honorees about the biggest changes at their organizations in the past year and their goals for this year. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a common theme.



Hundreds apply for new, affordable apartments in Lewiston

New, affordable apartments are now open in Lewiston, offering dozens of units for individuals and families in the area.

More than 1,780 people asked about the 35 units at Gauvreau Place. The developers hope the project has made an impact on Maine’s housing crisis.

Gauvreau Place brings more affordable housing to Lewiston

Maine Assistant Attorney General Johanna Gauvreau talks about her father and Gauvreau Place namesake Paul Gauvreau during the July 12 ribbon cutting ceremony of Gauvreau Place

On July 12, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Lewiston for Gauvreau Place, a new housing development at Blake and Pine streets by Community Concepts, Inc. that provides 28 affordable housing units and seven market rate units. Avesta Housing developed and is managing the property for Community Concepts. The ceremony included speeches by Maine Governor Janet Mills, Avesta Housing President & CEO Dana Totman, MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan, former Community Concepts CEO Shawn Yardley, Community Concepts Board President Ed Barrett, and Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline.

Gauvreau Place is named for the late Paul Gauvreau, a Lewiston attorney, legislator, and volunteer for numerous nonprofit organizations, including Community Concepts, for which he served as board chairman. The property on which Gauvreau Place was built once housed the medical offices of Paul’s grandfather and father. Paul’s family helped cut the ribbon, and one of his daughters, Maine Assistant Attorney General Johanna Gauvreau, talked about how he instilled the value of public service in his children and stressed the importance of helping others less fortunate than oneself.

Avesta Housing President & CEO Dana Totman

Maine Gov. Janet Mills

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Jessica Gauvreau, Maine Assistant Attorney General Johanna Gauvreau, and former Community Concepts CEO Shawn Yardley cut the ribbon at Gauvreau Place