Westbrook Street and Red Oak Drive South Portland Maine


In 2000, the state of Maine started working with the city of South Portland on redevelopment of a site formerly occupied by the Maine Youth Center. The buildings had been abandoned for more than three years and were in a growing state of disrepair. The unique property, located on a hill with mature landscaping and a river wrapping around it, includes the former administration building, called "the castle," five "cottages" that were used as dormitory-style housing, and a historic barn. (These are not cottages in the usual sense, which are small structures; these are three-story brick buildings.) The cottages were designed in 1893 by John Calvin Stevens and are included in the National Registry of Historic Places.

Today transformed campus is an excellent example of workforce housing adaptive reuse and mixed-use development.1 Working closely with the state of Maine and local community members, the development team produced a smart-growth project complete with affordable housing, green building, office space, community-supported facilities, and preserved open space. The project is ideally located, with close proximity to shopping and access to bus routes, trains, and the airport.

"Within the affordable housing community, this was a unique project," comments Danuta Drozdowicz of Fore Solutions, the green building consultant to the project. "It was the first time that the full team stepped up to the concept of green design. It was amazing who Richard Berman, the developer of the Brick Hill Cottages, and Avesta

Housing, the owner and manager, brought into the process. They let the team run with it. In addition, this project informed the Maine State Housing Authority in creating their own green building standards. We went through all the strategies for green. It was a terrific learning

"Within the affordable housing community, this was a unique project. It was the first time that the full team stepped up to the concept of green design. . . . This project informed the Maine State Housing Authority in creating their own green building standards. We went through all the strategies for green. It was a terrific learning experience for the whole team."

Danuta Drozdowicz

Fore Solutions experience for the whole team." Jay Waterman, director of Avesta Housing, agrees: "Everyone involved in the cottages—for-profit and nonprofit developers—came from a perspective of wanting to do more than just provide some affordable housing. They wanted to include durability, healthy living, and green building in their project mission."

Because of the ideal location of the site, the state's

Bureau of General Services wanted to keep the land under state ownership and held a competition to gather ideas for redevelopment of the site. Richard Berman was selected to develop the master plan and granted a ninety-year ground lease. His approach was to work "not by stating my own grand vision for the site, but instead by describing a community-based process that would produce a vision for what the community wanted for the site."

Berman worked with community process consultant Ed Suslovik and architecture firm Winton Scott to conduct a public participation process for the master plan. Suslovik designed a four-month process that included three public meetings with stakeholders including people from the neighboring parts of the city, city councilors, and the parents of students who attended a nearby school. At these "Kumbaya meetings," Berman talked about the importance of "(1) communication and (2) communion—trust building." He believes that food should always be served at such meetings and says this "breaking bread" is very important in building rapport and trust in the community.

Out of these meetings came "values" for developing the property. The community called for affordable housing (both rental and for-sale) to help stabilize the neighborhood; mixed-use options for people to be able to work as well as live on-site; open space; historic preservation; and public access to the Fore River. Berman and his development partner, Jim Hatch, brought the green building aspect. A self-described "bit of a hippie," Berman is increasingly concerned about the growing dependence on oil. "I used to be focused on green in my wallet in the past. Now, I'm more focused on preservation of the earth—smart growth coupled with green building projects," he says.

In addition to renovation of the historic cottages and the castle into 43 affordable housing units and 52,000 square feet of office space, respectively, the final master plan features the construction of 66 affordable new rental townhouse units; a new apartment building of 34 affordable units; 79 new market-priced condominium units; a new 70,000-square-foot office building; and renovation of the historic barn into a home for Youth Alternatives, a Maine nonprofit that serves families by providing a play space, conference room, and family center. The plan also calls for public access and open space, including a public square, a trail to a public dock on Long Creek, a children's playground, and a new bus stop. This case study primarily focuses on the renovation of the cottages into affordable housing units.


From the beginning of the project, developer Richard Berman pledged to incorporate green aspects into the entire development.

Setting Qreen Qoals: Berman hired Fore Solutions, a Portland, Maine-based green building consulting firm, to help the architecture firm Winton Scott frame the green building aspects of the project. The team decided to use the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes standard as a

The community called for preservation of historic "cottages" and affordable housing (both rental and forsale) to help stabilize the neighborhood.

green guide, but not to pursue certification because of the time and expense required to go through the actual process. Pandika Pleqi, lead architect with Winton Scott, commented that with the help of Fore Solutions, the project incorporated several resource efficiency measures, including a tight building envelope, good insulation, high-efficiency appliances, lighting, energy-efficient windows, and natural ventilation. The team also brought in a third-party engineer, Marc Rosenbaum of Energysmiths.

Saving the Buildings: The first, and biggest, green achievement by the development team was saving all the original historic buildings. The state had completed architectural studies that indicated the buildings should be torn down because of the dilapidated condition. However, developer Richard Berman refused to tear down the structures, explaining, "The uniqueness of the historic buildings will add to the special character of Brick Hill," and saving the buildings worked with his pro forma.

Another goal was to maintain the open space of the campus and to avoid cutting down any trees. The team worked within this framework to preserve the large, central open space and to place new structures strategically around it. No existing trees were cut down. At one point, some people pushed for basket-


Project Size

Historic Cottage Renovation:

New Townhouses:

New Apartment Building:

Historic Barn:

Historic Castle:

New Condo Project: New Office Building: Open Space:

Site Acreage: Construction Cost: Development Cost: Completion Date:

Project Team Developer: Owner/Manager: Architect: Process Consultant: MEP Engineers: Construction: Landscape Architect:

Green Building Consultants:

5 buildings renovated into 43 units (1, 2, and 4 bedrooms) and one common space for laundry and community meetings

66 affordable housing units. Developer: Deep Cove LLC (Richard Berman and Jim Hatch). Owner/manager: Avesta Housing

34 affordable housing units. Developer: Deep Cove LLC (Richard Berman and Jim Hatch). Owner/manager: Avesta Housing

Leased to nonprofit Youth Alternatives to serve families by providing a play space, conference room, and family center

52,000 sq ft of office space, fully leased in 2006. A number of residents work for the current tenants. Developer: Castle Brook LLC (Richard Berman and Dirk Thomas)

79 market-rate units. Developer: Heron's Cove (Richard Berman and Jim Hatch)

70,000 sq ft. Developer: To be determined; goal of LEED certification

Provisions for public access and open space include a public square and a trail to a public dock on Long Creek; children's playground planned

5.36 acres for the cottages and 52 acres for the total site

$6,296,387 for the cottages

$8,842,460 million for the cottages

Summer 2006 for the cottages

Richard Berman Avesta Housing Winton Scott Architects Ed Suslovik

Swift Engineering / System Engineering / Energysmiths Wright-Ryan Construction Carroll & Associates

Fore Solutions; Maine State Housing for green guidelines ball courts in the open space in front of the cottages, but, in the end, the group decided the space would remain open. Renovation Elements: The decrepit structures were essentially gutted. Even though the cottages are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Pleqi said no conflicts came up while trying to balance green goals with those of the historic preservation requirements. For example, energy-efficient vinyl windows were not allowed under historic preservation guidelines, so efficient wood-frame windows were used. These met both green and historic criteria.

The old brick buildings were not insulated. Spray-in Icynene foam insulation was selected to insulate the roof and wall cavities. This type of insulation provides a protective barrier against outdoor allergens and pollutants while minimizing air leakage for increased energy efficiency and a healthier indoor environment. It maintains its performance with no loss of R-value over time. Pleqi conducted a special inspection of the insulation process to ensure that it would not harm the buildings.

Systems: The units have individual heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems rather than a central system, allowing residents to control their own space conditioning and therefore their own energy consumption. Radiant flooring was discussed but quickly dismissed because the old substructure and beams made its use impractical. A great deal of time was spent looking at provisions for make-up air,2 and the team determined it was not possible to use air-to-air heat exchangers. A Panasonic exhaust fan system was selected for each cottage's ventilation system. It was set to run on a schedule to ensure good exhaust of the building.


The selected construction company, Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc., is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and a founding member of


Utilized LEED for Homes to guide the entire process. Site

• Preserved of open space and mature landscaping; avoided cutting down any trees

• Reused all historic structures on the site and sensitively infilled site with new buildings

• Located close to mass transit and shopping; added new bus stop

• Included mixed-use and live/work elements as an integral element of the program

• Included central park and children's playground

• Located local nonprofit Youth Alternatives on-site for family support and kid play options


• Low-flow faucets and showerheads

• Water-efficient appliances


• Icynene insulation system used to improve building envelope and reduce energy costs in old brick buildings

• Energy-efficient windows

• ENERGY STAR® appliances

• High-efficiency ventilation system with fan controls installed

Materials and Resources

• Low-volatile organic compounds (VOC) materials used for adhesives, glues, sealants, primers, and paints

• Aggressive construction waste management plan diverted an average of 67% of waste away from landfills and to recycling facilities, representing 1,003 tons of construction waste

Health and Comfort

• Icynene insulation system, which has no harmful emissions and does not breed mold

• Indoor air quality program

• Community-supportive process embraced during design and development

• Community room and shared laundry space for cottages the USGBC Maine chapter. Wright-Ryan used the large redevelopment project as an opportunity to implement an aggressive construction waste management plan, diverting an average of 67 percent of waste away from landfills and to recycling facilities. This practice kept more than 1,003 tons of construction waste out of landfills.


"The development had a good financial arrangement and partnership—one of the best for-profit developers on the front end who could put up the at-risk capital, then exit via Maine's largest nonprofit developer, Avesta, coming in for the long-term rental and operations of the project," says Jay Waterman of Avesta Housing. Through the process these partners discovered their shared values for the development.

Unique to Brick Hill development, developer Richard Berman proposed a transparent financial process. Berman told the state he would "report every cent spent on the project every year." This financial transparency was coupled with his concept of financial partnership with the city and the state. After developer fees and a return on the equity investment of 25 percent, any additional profits are to be split equally between Berman, the city of South Portland, and the state of Maine. By "making them partners," Berman says, he reduced his risk by encouraging the city and state to take active roles in ensuring the success of the development. This strong relationship and active communication among project partners helped the team to earn much needed funding sources, including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and to help South Portland to become the first city in Maine to utilize tax increment financing to fund an affordable housing development. Tax increment financing (TIF) is a method of public financing that uses increases in municipal tax revenue in a designated area to finance the development of projects in that area.

With regard to savings, Waterman notes, "While we did not do energy modeling on this project, I expect that about $400 per unit per year will be saved in heating and electric costs given the insulation and systems we have installed, compared to typically developed projects we have in the Avesta portfolio."


Many lessons were learned from the developer, the architect, and the owner/manager in the process of creating the Brick Hill Cottages project. One of the main accomplishments of this particular team was to come together in helping to frame and launch the Maine Green Housing program.

Community Process

"Some developers are afraid of community process— they don't want to give up control," Berman says. He feels that there is actually less risk with more community process, because one has the "benefit of hearing from more players. For example, opportunities for subsidies come up. It may take a bit more time for this kind of process, but there's less risk in the end." Less risk means it makes more financial sense. "You do have to know what you are doing in the process, but you will be rewarded," Berman notes.

Lessons from the Cottages Will Support the Whole Development: Jay Waterman of Avesta Housing commented that there were lessons learned that translated to the other parts of Brick Hill with regard to specific green features at the




General Partner Capital Federal Home Loan Bank of

Boston AHP (grant) Low Income Housing Tax Credit


Bangor Savings (Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston AHP Advance for permanent loan) Maine State Housing Authority RLP Tax Increment Financing

Total Sources




cottages. "We will definitely pursue some of the aspects of the cottages design in the future phases," he says—for example:

• Open cell foam insulation will be pursued for its prevention of air infiltration and sound attenuation as well as high R-value.

• Significant money will be saved in both construction costs and operating costs if a flat roof is used instead of a pitched roof. Operating costs saved include monitoring the sprinkler system in attics; flushing glycol loops in cold spaces in attics; preventing the potential for ice damming if the space does get warm air circulating; and melting roof snow from within.

• Waterproofing brick is accomplished more from a good mortar and pointing than from any sealer that is put over the brick.

• High ceilings in older buildings absolutely need ceiling fans to help keep air circulating and to push heat down to residents in the winter.

Renovation: Architect Pandika Pleqi comments that "the biggest lesson learned was that we could take these old buildings that were in such bad shape and transform them, giving them life for hopefully another 100 years." Each building was unique and thus had to be handled individually. "It was a challenge and an achievement," she says. "We were lucky to have Wright-Ryan on board as the contractor from the very beginning. They have good experience in green building and so everyone was able to work together. It was a very cordial team." Pleqi is also pleased with how the team was able to infill the site sensitively with new buildings while maintaining the original character.


Developer: Richard Berman

207-772-3225, [email protected]

Architect: Winston Scott

Pandika Pleqi, project architect: 207-774-481

Owner/Manager: Avesta Housing

James Waterman, director: 1-800-339-6516


Berman, Richard, developer, personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, July 24, 2006, and e-mail correspondence, July 2006.

Drozdowicz, Danuta, Fore Solutions, personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, July 6, 2006.

Hatch, Jim, developer with Richard Berman, e-mail correspondence with Jenifer Seal Cramer, July 2006.

McGowan, Myranda, and Benjamin Smith, "A Case Study of the Brick Hill Development in South Portland," Maine Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine (May 2005).

Pleqi, Pandika, Winston Scott Architects, personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, July 19, 2006, and e-mail correspondence, July 2006.

Staddard, Allison, Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc., personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, June 13, 2006, and email correspondence, June-July 2006.

Waterman, James, Avesta Housing, personal interviews by Jenifer Seal Cramer, June 10 and July 26, 2006, and email correspondence, July-August 2006.

Wright-Ryan Construction, Inc. "Brick Hill Project" information sheet, spring 2006.


1. Workforce housing is aimed at middle-income professionals such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and medical technicians, who provide essential community services. Workforce families are usually younger and often include children. Although no uniform income guidelines have yet been set, workforce housing is generally affordable to households earning incomes within the range of 60-120 percent of area median income. The lack of workforce housing is typically of great concern in areas with expensive real estate markets or in resort areas. Workforce housing is also often located in or near employment centers, as one antidote to traffic congestion and lengthy commutes stemming from sprawl.

2. Make-up air prevents negative pressure problems due to air exhausted from a building and can also be heated (or cooled) to provide clean, comfortable working conditions.

Waste Management And Control

Waste Management And Control

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Understanding Waste Management. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To The Truth about Environment, Waste and Landfills.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment