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 Ridgewood at Village Square. A conversation with Dana Totman, Avesta Housing.
MEREDA: Describe the building and project.
Dana Totman: Ridgewood at Village Square is an affordable senior property with 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments targeted to households at or below 60% of the area median income. Located in Gorham, Ridgewood has assistance available through Rural Development for all 24 units - residents pay 30% of their adjusted gross monthly income towards rent. Because of the availability of this rental assistance, lower income senior households that could not afford regular tax credit affordable housing are able to afford to live at Ridgewood. The average annual income of Ridgewood residents is approximately $14,100.
Ridgewood was designed by Gawron Turgeon Architects of Scarborough and built by Great Falls Construction of Gorham. Financing was provided by Gorham Savings, Northern New England Housing Investment Fund, MaineHousing, and Rural Development.
MEREDA: What was the impetus for this project?
Dana Totman: Avesta received a RD515 award for senior housing. We initially planned to build this development in Bridgton, but the residents there rejected it, despite their desperate need for affordable housing for seniors. So, we recognized a need for affordable housing for seniors in Gorham and found a town that was very welcoming of this important development for their senior residents. Gorham was particularly appealing since we had a site on our Village Square campus that was perfect for the building.
MEREDA: That sounds like quite a process. How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?
Dana Totman: Planning for the development started in 2010 and the construction was completed in the first half of 2016.
MEREDA: Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.
Dana Totman: One of the biggest challenges for the development was finding a site that fit the necessary criteria for Rural Development, MaineHousing, and Avesta. We were fortunate that the perfect site ended up being at our own Village Square campus.
MEREDA: Something unexpected you learned along the way was….
Dana Totman: We learned that Maine Housing and Rural Development are very patient when a developer encounters a difficult town and needs to transfer funds to a different town.
MEREDA: Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable?
Dana Totman: I’d have to say there are two notable features at Ridgewood – the telehealth services and the sustainable construction. Ridgewood residents benefit from a revolutionary telehealth program resulting from a partnership between Avesta and MaineHealth. This innovative collaboration between the healthcare and affordable housing industries aims to move the needle forward in the area of low-income seniors’ health and well-being. Residents with complex healthcare needs who accept this assistance connect to physicians and nurse care managers using advanced telehealth technology. This expanded program builds on a previous nursing pilot program to provide more comprehensive care for patients identified as high risk.
In alignment with Avesta’s core value of sustainability, Ridgewood generates 50% onsite renewable energy and has been certified with the following designations: LEED Platinum, LEED for Homes, Enterprise Green Communities, and Energy Star. The energy-producing photovoltaic solar panels on the roof were installed by Gorham-based GreenSun LLC.