PORTLAND ─ The Portland Housing Authority today announced the completion of Solterra, a 55-unit affordable rental housing development located at 58 Boyd Street in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. Initiated in 2016, the project received planning board approval in late 2017, construction started in May 2019 and the certificate of occupancy was issued in October 2020.

Solterra is a mixed-income, six-story building featuring 23 efficiency, ten (10) one-bedroom, thirteen (13) two-bedroom and nine (9) three-bedroom apartments as well as a community space (“The Harvest Room”) adjacent to the Boyd Street Urban Gardens. Onsite amenities include 23 automobile parking spaces, 28 secure bicycle spaces within the building, a laundry room, recycling and trash services, and, eventually, composting services. The project received a competitive grant from Efficiency Maine to install 145 solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building, which will provide enough electricity to power all common area heating and cooling systems, interior and exterior lighting, and hot water, as well as all onsite commercial office space.

Eighty percent of the units are affordable to households earning below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Twenty percent of the units have no income restrictions. Rents range from $788 for an efficiency to $1,810 for a three-bedroom. 28 of the units have project-based rental assistance, meaning the resident only pays 30 percent of their income for the unit and the federal Housing Choice Voucher program covers the difference. Avesta Housing will provide property management, leasing and coordination of resident services for Solterra.

“The completion of Solterra during the COVID-19 pandemic is a true testament to the hard work and professionalism of all involved. We kept workers safe while continuing on course to build this important housing within budget and with only minor delays,” said Cheryl Sessions, executive director of the Portland Housing Authority. “In addition to bringing much needed affordable housing to the peninsula, Solterra features a forward-thinking design with solar panels to provide cost-savings, which in turn provides for building-wide Wi-Fi Internet service so residents may access support services remotely as well as onsite. Solterra represents a timely next step in the development of Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood.”

The Portland Housing Authority recognizes the importance of providing housing with amenities that support resident health, safety and opportunity. Solterra will feature free Wi-Fi Internet service, subsidized in part by the building’s rooftop solar array, so residents can remotely access a variety of support services. Through a partnership with Greater Portland Health, residents can safely meet with healthcare providers from home via telehealth connections. Solterra will also have a part-time Resident Services Coordinator available to meet with residents and facilitate connections to other support services nearby or on-site, including early childhood education resources, literacy training, after-school activities, employment services and workforce training.

“This project will increase the supply of affordable housing in the city at an especially critical time,” said Portland Mayor Kate Snyder. “The City of Portland continues and deepens our work to support the creation of affordable housing through vehicles like affordable housing TIFs, HOME funds, the Housing Trust Fund and working with developers to help them secure low-income housing tax credits. I’d like to thank the Portland Housing Authority for their work on this project and the work they do every day to provide safe and affordable housing in our city.”

“In 2018, the Housing Committee included as a priority in the City’s Annual Housing Trust Fund Plan to support the Portland Housing Authority in the implementation of their Strategic Vision Plan, which specifically referenced the 58 Boyd Street project,” said Councilor Jill Duson, chair of the Council’s Housing Committee. “It’s exciting to see this project come to fruition, adding much needed affordable units to East Bayside and the city as a whole.”

Solterra is aptly named for the nearby urban gardens, the building’s solar installation, and the Italian community that was once there, deriving its name from the Italian sole e terra (“sun and earth”). Cultivating Community, a local food security, nutrition and farming nonprofit organization, will move its headquarters into the building’s first-floor commercial offices.

“Solterra was designed to accommodate the numerous social, physical and environmental needs of the community,” said Ben Walter, president of CWS Architects. “In addition to quality of life and durability requirements, environmental sustainability was a keystone to the design process. Extensive remediation of contaminated soil from the site was completed prior to starting construction. The development also incorporated quality materials, a very robust exterior insulation envelope (i.e. walls, windows and roof systems), and allowed for the implementation of roof-top solar panels and a non-fossil fuel electric heating source. Solterra is a model sustainable residential development the community can be very proud of.”

The Portland Housing Authority would like to recognize all of the partners involved in this project, including Construction Manager Wright-Ryan Construction; the design team, which included CWS Architects, Carroll Associates Landscape Architects, Bennett Engineering, Ransom Consulting, Becker Structural, Sparhawk Group Commissioning, S.W. Cole Engineering, Owen Haskell Surveyors, Credere Associates Environmental Engineering; and owner representative Development Services of New England.

Financing for Solterra included a combination of local, state and federal sources and private investment, including:
• Maine State Housing Authority (Low Income Housing Tax Credit issuer)
• City of Portland Affordable Housing Program (Federal HOME funds)
• Bangor Savings Bank / Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston Affordable Housing Program (grant and subsidized loan)
• Evernorth / TD Bank (LIHTC equity investor)
• Efficiency Maine Trust (Solar Photovoltaic Grant)

For general information, contact:
Jay Waterman
Director of Real Estate Development
Portland Housing Authority
jwaterman@porthouse.org or 207-272-2562

For leasing information at Solterra, contact:
Emily Pelletier, Senior Leasing Specialist
epelletier@avestahousing.org or 207-245-3255

About Portland Housing Authority — Established in 1943, the Portland Housing Authority and its affiliated corporations provide long-term, affordable fair rental housing and related assistance to more than 3,000 low-income families, seniors and disabled individuals. It does this primarily through federally funded and regulated programs, including the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. In collaboration with community partners and fellow housing authorities like South Portland and Westbrook, PHA strives to improve quality of life, build community, enhance safety and promote personal success for the people it serves and the neighborhoods in which they reside. For more information, visit http://www.porthouse.org.