The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Young Street Apartments

In multi-part series, exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation.  MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.

Please join with us in celebrating Young Street Apartments.  A conversation with Dana Totman, Avesta Housing.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Dana Totman:  Young Street Apartments is a 28-unit affordable housing building for seniors nestled in downtown South Berwick. It is a short walk from the elementary school, shops, restaurants, banks, churches, and more.

This project employed 208 construction-related workers. The architect for Young Street Apartments was Lassel Architects and the general contractor was Pine Brook Corporation. Financing was provided by Bangor Savings, Neighborworks America, MaineHousing, Federal Home Loan Bank and Boston Capital.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?

Dana Totman:  In 2010, the Town of South Berwick purchased the former St. Michael’s church, located in the heart of town. The purchase included a vacant parcel of land without a purpose. South Berwick partnered with Avesta Housing and a vision was formed to build affordable senior housing. The idea was great – create a safe, quality, affordable place for seniors to live and thrive while keeping them centrally located so they can walk to the library, school, churches, and shops – but so was the challenge – obtain approximately six million dollars to fund the development.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Dana Totman:  For nearly half a decade, South Berwick and Avesta Housing worked together tirelessly to recruit funders to the vision of affordable senior housing in South Berwick. Gradually, funders started to be inspired by this vision and pledge their support, and the construction of Young Street Apartments was completed in December 2015.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Dana Totman:  Funding and building this infill project in a small, rural downtown was a notable feat! As I mentioned, it took a while to get funders on board. We knew we had a great project on our hands, but it took some time for us to convince others of the merit. Once we did though, we had an enthusiastic team behind us.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Dana Totman:  I wouldn’t say this was unexpected, but we were reminded that our Core Values really speak to the heart of who we are as an organization. One of Avesta’s core values is Relationships, and the success of this project was all about relationships. The strong relationships established between Avesta, South Berwick, and the many funders of Young Street Apartments exemplify this.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Dana Totman:  Another important relationship that was established during development was one between Avesta Housing and York Hospital to improve access to healthcare for the residents of Young Street Apartments. With a focus on “aging in place” and breaking down barriers between low-income residents and healthcare, Avesta and York Hospital are piloting an innovative telemedicine service in the private wellness room at Young Street Apartments. This service is a virtual walk-in clinic meant to bridge the gap between regular visits to a primary care physician and emergency room services with same-day access (by appointment) to medical staff who can assess various symptoms via HIPAA-compliant video conferencing equipment. York Hospital offers the program free of charge to residents.

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