Photograph of the two street façades of a four-story apartment building.
Photograph of the rooftop garden in the context of surrounding buildings and water in the middleground.
Photograph of nine rooftop garden beds and a greenhouse.
Photograph of demonstration kitchen with four chairs arranged along a kitchen island and with a stainless steel refrigerator and double oven in the background.
Photograph of three men and one woman cooking vegetables at a kitchen island.
Photograph of a common area featuring couches and seven upholstered chairs; a glass door in the back wall separates this space from a meeting room.
Photograph of the front façade of a four-story apartment building.

 

Home >Case Studies >Portland, Maine: 409 Cumberland Avenue Apartments Add Affordable Housing and Promote Sustainable Food and Healthy Living

 

Portland, Maine: 409 Cumberland Avenue Apartments Add Affordable Housing and Promote Sustainable Food and Healthy Living

 

In recent years, Portland, Maine, has prioritized filling an affordable housing gap for moderate- and low-income residents who struggle with the city’s rising rents and limited supply of affordable units. At the same time, Portland has committed to healthy living and the development of sustainable and locally sourced food systems. Portland’s commitment to sustainable food, as articulated in its 2030 comprehensive plan, is evident in its city-supported community gardens and thriving food culture. Opened in 2015, 409 Cumberland Avenue Apartments in Bayside, a former industrial neighborhood with predominantly low-income residents located adjacent to Portland’s downtown, supports the city’s goal of healthy living and addresses its need for affordable housing. The 57-unit, mixed-income apartment building helps fulfill the city’s vision for a vibrant urban district with a range of housing types.

409 Cumberland Adds Mixed-Income Housing in Bayside

The four-story building consists of 11 market-rate units and 46 units affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, with 9 of the affordable units set aside for individuals who previously experienced homelessness. The units consist of 21 studio, 32 one-bedroom, and 4 two-bedroom units. The project includes several sustainable elements. To conserve energy, 409 Cumberland features a high-efficiency heating system, a superinsulated building envelope, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, and ENERGY STAR® appliances. In addition, the development conserves water with low-flow plumbing and a low-impact stormwater management system and maintains indoor air quality by using paints without volatile organic compounds (VOC) and low-VOC materials.

The project is also an example of residential infill development, as called for in the neighborhood revitalization plan, “A New Vision for Bayside.” In achieving this goal, developer Avesta Housing solicited community input for the project’s design after acquiring the vacant site in 2010. Local stakeholders expressed a desire for a mixed-income, multifamily building that reflected the city’s commitment to healthy and sustainable food systems.

Sustainable Food and Healthy Living on the Rooftop and in the Kitchen

The building’s rooftop vegetable garden and demonstration kitchen embody 409 Cumberland’s dedication to sustainable food production. The rooftop garden consists of 27 raised beds and a greenhouse with 5 raised garden beds for year-round growing. Residents gather produce grown in the garden and cook it in a demonstration kitchen on the building’s first floor, known as the Healthy Living Center. The nonprofit Cultivating Community has a regular presence at 409 Cumberland managing the kitchen and offering scheduled workshops on cooking and gardening as well as consulting with residents on an as-needed basis. Residents can participate in these free activities and request a garden bed. So far, the facilities have accommodated every resident who has wanted to grow their own food.

Cultivating Community

In addition to encouraging healthy living, the gardening and cooking activities are opportunities for residents to meet. Growers can share advice across their individual plots or combine their efforts at shared planters. In the kitchen, residents participating in cooking workshops share their dishes in a common meal. According to Laura Mailander, urban agriculture specialist for Cultivating Community, these meals “increase people’s access to healthy food and also build a strong sense of community in the building.” The residents get to know each other through the programs, and some informal mentorships have emerged between more experienced gardeners and novices. In addition to Cultivating Community’s workshops, an Avesta Housing coordinator refers residents to services in the community. Avesta also hosts events for residents such as health and wellness activities in a community room on the first floor.

The broader Portland community benefits from 409 Cumberland’s dedicated sustainable food spaces. Cultivating Community runs other programs in the Healthy Living Center, including cooking classes for its youth programs. In addition, Avesta House offers the first-floor common rooms at no cost to organizations focusing on healthy living. Activities held in the common rooms include meditation and yoga classes as well as meetings by local environmental organizations.

Financing

The project’s total development cost was approximately $11.1 million (table 1). Relying primarily on low-income housing tax credits, 409 Cumberland’s financing included other public as well as private sources. Maine’s housing authority was an especially important source of financing, providing both an interest-only mortgage and a 30-year deferred loan at no interest. The rooftop garden and greenhouse cost approximately $433,000 to construct, including a roof truss that can hold the additional weight. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program provided a subsidy that helped cover this cost, which proved to be “the difference maker” in the project’s financing, according to Greg Payne, development officer for Avesta Housing.

Table 1: Financing for 409 Cumberland
Low-income housing tax credits $6,033,000  
MaineHousing subsidies 3,509,000  
Portland HOME funding 500,000  
Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston
Affordable Housing Program subsidy
500,000  
Developer loans 578,000  
Total $11,120,000  

Recognition

According to Payne, the Portland community has embraced 409 Cumberland because it supports a citywide commitment to healthy living, addresses a critical need for affordable rental housing, and helps revitalize the neighborhood. The project has also attracted visitors from throughout the city who are looking for ideas to foster healthy living and sustainable food for their building projects. In addition, 409 Cumberland’s innovative sustainable food features that encourage healthy living earned it the 2016 Affordable Housing Finance Magazine Editor’s Choice Award and the 22nd annual Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Green Housing category.


 

Source:

City of Portland, Maine. 2017. “Portland’s Plan 2030,” 47–53. Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Interview with Laura Mailander, urban agriculture specialist, Cultivating Community, 10 January 2018; City of Portland, Maine. n.d. “Community Gardens.” Accessed 8 February 2018; City of Portland, Maine. n.d. “Shaping Portland’s Food System.” Accessed 8 February 2018; City of Portland, Maine. n.d. “Bayside.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing.

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Source:

Avesta Housing. 2017. “409 Cumberland: Portland, Maine.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing; Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Correspondence from Greg Payne, 31 January 2018.

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Source:

City of Portland, Maine. 2000. “A New Vision for Bayside,” 9. Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Avesta Housing. 2017. “409 Cumberland: Portland, Maine.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing.

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Source:

Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Avesta Housing. 2017. “409 Cumberland: Portland, Maine.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Laura Mailander, urban agriculture specialist, Cultivating Community, 10 January 2018; Correspondence from Laura Mailander, urban agriculture specialist, Cultivating Community, 9 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing; Cultivating Community. 2015. “How About Affordable Healthy Downtown Living in Portland, ME?” Accessed 8 February 2018; Correspondence from Greg Payne, 31 January 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Laura Mailander, 10 January 2018; Cultivating Community. 2015. “Contact Us.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Correspondence from Greg Payne, 25 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing.

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Source:

Interview with Laura Mailander, 10 January 2018; Cultivating Community. 2015. “Youth Programs.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, development officer, Avesta Housing, 18 January 2018; Correspondence from Greg Payne, 25 February 2018; Document provided by Avesta Housing.

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Source:

Document provided by Avesta Housing; Correspondence from Greg Payne, 31 January 2018; Correspondence from Mark Wiesendanger, director of development, MaineHousing, 6 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, 18 January 2018.

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Source:

Christen Serlin. 2016. “AHF Announces Winners of 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards,” press release, 20 September. Accessed 8 February 2018; Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. 2016. “22nd Annual Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Awards Recognize National Leaders in Affordable Housing.” Accessed 8 February 2018; Interview with Greg Payne, 18 January 2018; Interview with Laura Mailander, 10 January 2018.

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