Portland planners were generally enthusiastic during a workshop last week on a proposal to construct 60 affordable rental apartments in the city’s Bayside neighborhood.
The proposal for a new building at 337 Cumberland Ave. is a partnership between the Portland Housing Authority and Youth & Family Outreach, a nonprofit early childhood development agency that operates in a former church next door at 331 Cumberland Ave.
The church would become part of the project, continue to be used by Youth & Family Outreach, and share parking with the new apartment building. It would be connected to the new building via a one-story attachment.
Related story: Portland could gain almost 150 affordable apartments
The attachment, however, will require a waiver because it is only proposed to be 24-feet tall, which does not meet a minimum height requirement.
James Rather, the city’s development review service manager, said an existing restaurant building will have to be demolished to make way for the new construction.
Given the slope of the land, the new six-story building between Preble and Brown streets would appear to be seven stories when viewed from behind on Portland Street.
Matt Peters, representing the applicants, said this project will allow the day-care center to serve even more clients, and create housing with easy access to downtown jobs and transportation. He said there will be a community space in the old chapel, which will be available to broader uses over time.
“We’re committed to building a building not just for today, but for when the children of (Youth and Family Outreach) have children of their own,” he said.
Jesse Thompson, lead designer from Kaplan Thompson Architects, said the proposed building will contain apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. The plan calls for 48 permanently affordable units, and 12 priced at market rate.
“So, there is family housing, which is a tremendous need in this city,” he said.
Thirty-six of the affordable apartments are targeted at households earning at or below 50 percent of the area median income. Twelve units are targeted at or below 60 percent AMI. And 12 units will remain unrestricted.
The proposal is required to provide at least six units for a total of eight bedrooms at or below 100 percent AMI. But since the proposal calls for 80 percent of its units to be between 50 and 60 percent AMI, it would provide a greater percentage of affordable units at lower-income targets, according to the city’s Housing and Community Development Division.
According to the city, 50 percent AMI for a household of three is $45,150. Sixty percent AMI for a household of the same size is $54,486. One hundred percent AMI for a household of three is $90,810.
The apartments will be on the smaller side, Thompson said, ranging from 400 square feet to 900 square feet.
He said the design of the building is to be “as calm and recessive” as possible since it would be connected to YFO.
“We don’t want it to be a loud neighbor,” Thompson said.
A black, metal fence surrounding the property will be retained, he said, and over time they also hope to have a community art installation around the property.
Thompson also said the proposal contains additional outdoor space for YFO, including outdoor learning space and gardens. One of the gardens will be elevated above a parking garage, but classrooms will open onto it.
The proposal does not, however, include outdoor space for tenants, although families living there will have access to a playground on the property.
Thompson said being in the heart of the city should make up for not having outdoor space attached.
“Our hope is (since) you’re close to Monument Square, to Back Cove, your outdoor space is the city around you,” he said.
While there is a state mandate for outdoor space for the day-care center, there is no requirement to create outdoor space for the apartments.
While the apartment building will be attached to the childcare facility, Thompson said the building is designed to have separate entrances for the residential side and the day-care.
Planning Board member Austin Smith called the proposal “great,” although he said the lack of outdoor space for residents would be a “shortcoming.” He said he hoped the applicants might be able to find an alternative going forward.
“It’s imaginative, it’s a great synergy between the two organizations,” Smith said. “The simplicity of the building works for me because of the chapel next to it.”
Board Chair Brandon Mazer also praised the project. While he was hesitant about some waivers and the lack of open space for residents, he said the overall project is a good one for families.
Two parents of children at YFO also spoke in favor of the project and praised the organization’s impact on children.
Samuel Rich called YFO “a blessing” for his two children. He said his family struggled to find affordable child care before coming to YFO. “Having a resource like YFO right downtown is huge,” he said.
Because the July 21 board session was a workshop, no action was taken. Rather said there would not have to be a second workshop, so the next step for the proposal will be a public hearing.