The West End Apartments are a transformative, multi-use development in the West End neighborhood of South Portland, Maine. When the city revised its neighborhood zoning after working with residents to permit the creation of a new “downtown”, our team partnered with local nonprofit developer Avesta Housing to demonstrate what a walkable neighborhood based around affordable housing could be.
The multi-phase, 116-unit affordable housing project sets a precedent for a new, walkable neighborhood center, one focused on high-performance design and high quality of living. The apartments are a mix of deeply affordable and market rate family units, set over street level storefronts and community spaces. Residents enjoy an outdoor plaza, onsite laundry, and indoor bike storage.
Within a strict budget, the project delivers housing that comfortably accommodates a variety of demographics, imparts the economic and environmental relief of low operational energy demands, and creates a vibrant new community context. The proximity of the buildings to established commercial and recreational centers, as well as the creation of new community and retail spaces in their ground levels, further reduces anticipated lifetime carbon emissions by lessening occupants’ needs for automobile transportation to access amenities, services, and workplaces. This pedestrian-scale model for neighborhood design not only takes advantage of previously existing walkable conditions, but also introduces new ones.
The completed structures will be thermal bridge-free and target Passive House airtightness metrics, as well as exceed AIA 2030 expectations for pEUI reductions. The roofline’s geometry, while striking to behold, also serves as a “solar mountain” angled optimally for the future installation of photovoltaic panels.
The first 64-unit building was completed in 2020 and the second 52-unit structure is anticipated to be ready for occupancy in 2023. When the application process for residency in the second building opened for one week in September 2022, Avesta received more than 1,000 applications, many from asylum seekers, hoping to find safe, quality, affordable housing in Portland.