The developer of a proposed mixed income rental housing project at 510 Cumberland Avenue, Deering Place, got an earful from neighbors tonight at a required city meeting prior to advancing to the Portland planning board for its consideration. Over fifty (50) residents attended the meeting expressing concerns about parking in an already densely populated area, the lack of stability that so many renters would bring to this community and the resulting decline of real estate values for property owners in the immediate neighborhood.
Avesta Housing was in the hot seat tonight for its proposed 82 unit rental development at 510 Cumberland Avenue – a place for developers that has become common as more and more development occurs on the peninsula.
But tonight’s villian was not gentrification as it is often on Munjoy Hll. The issue for many is about allowing subsidized renters into the area to transform it into a disorderly community like nearby Bayside and intensify the already tense parking issues in the area.
Matthew Peters, a Vice President at Avesta Housing, said that fifteen efficiency units and forty-three one bedroom units are planned with eighty-two units overall to be built in addition to the efficiency and two bedroom units described in his presentation. Fifty of those units will be subsidized and thirty-two units market rate.
The existing building that formerly housed the People’s Regional Opportunity Program, will be renovated and an addition built on the adjoining parking lot. Furthermore, a fact probably contributing to the ire of the opponents of the proposal was the revelation that sixty-four parking spaces on site will be provided for renters for the eighty-two units.
Avesta is requesting a waiver from the city on the number of parking spaces required for this development. According to one Avesta Housing official, data collected shows that only 60 – 65% of residents of Avesta Housing own cars.
Keri Lord, a long-time resident of Parkside, and who is often an advocate for the neighborhood at city meetings said: “Studio and one bedroom tenants stay for six months only. Mailmen will tell you that.” An unidentified speaker responded that what gives renters instability are the excessive rent increases given to tenants. He suggested that this development could be a stabilizing influence for renters encouraging them to stay longer in these units.
Countering what the Parkside mailman told Lord, Peters responded that residents of the Oak Street Lofts stay for three years on average. Undeterred, Lord soldered on: “We want to limit the number of transient apartments in this neighborhood. We want a family community.” Michael Patterson, a former planning board member, said that neighbors want a community where children can be raised.
Another questioner asked: “What are the plans to mitigate crime in the area when this is built? Councilor Spencer Thibodeau responded that 80% of city calls for service occur in the nearby Bayside section of Portland, but the calls have “nothing to do with housing.” He also said that parking in this neighborhood has always been a problem.” The Portland Police Department recently released figures that between 2006 and October 31, 2017, the calls for service in Bayside increased by 70.26%.
That despite the “Operation Bayside” a/k/a “Bayside Boost” that city manager Poor Jon and Councilor Belinda Raw launched in July of 2016 to resolve disorderly conduct issues in Bayside. Neither city official has responded to an much earlier mhn.com inquiry about the success or failure of the effort and what could be done to make the initiative more effective.
Emma Holder, president of the Parkside Neighborhood Organization and unifier-in-chief said: At least the “people in this room tonight are not typical of the tenants who will be living here.” Meooouuch! Countering the anti-renter sentiment was Claude Rwganje who said that Portland is getting so “expensive that people can’t afford to live here. Having homeless people here is even worse.”
Construction of the building could begin in November of 2018 with occupancy occurring in March or April of 2019. Construction would take ten or eleven months.
“We have lived on Deering Street for 20 years. We have no off street parking. We cannot go any where with our vehicle after 5:00 pm, because there will be no parking space when we get back,” said Tony Holt, following the meeting summing up the dominant issue of the evening. Deb Cook, his wife, said: “We hope that the neighborhood will be welcoming when it is built.”
The city planner responsible for this proposal is: Shukria Wiar. She may be reached at 207 – 756-8083 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please view prior post on the subject herein dated July 27, 2017.