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Posted on: November 17, 2021

Portland Housing Authority’s Solterra Named Smart Growth Award Winner

Cheryl Sessions and Jay Waterman holding a wooden award in the shape of the state of Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (November 10, 2021) – At its annual summit held virtually on Thursday, photo looking down the front sidewalk of Solterra ApartmentsNovember 4, 2021, Grow Smart Maine  recognized the Portland Housing Authority’s Solterra as 2021 Outstanding Project.

Smart Growth Maine is a nonprofit that seeks to revitalize historic neighborhoods to create vibrant and inclusive communities for residents of all ages. Steeped in the history of Maine, SGM advocates for policies and projects that advance Maine’s economic growth while conserving Maine’s natural environment and traditional livelihoods including fishing, farming and forestry. Each year SGM honors building and neighborhood projects that embody these values and the concept of smart growth.

Aptly named for the nearby urban gardens, the building’s rooftop solar installation and the Italian community that was once there, Solterra (“sun and earth” in Italian) at 58 Boyd Street in East Bayside 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.

Solterra was designed to accommodate the local community’s social, physical, and environmental needs, with accessibility, quality of life, durability, and environmental sustainability as keystones to the design process. The project was one of only two in Maine to receive a grant from Efficiency Maine’s Renewable Energy Community Demonstration Projects in Affordable Housing and was honored by MEREDA in 2020. The 50-Kilowatt system allows enough savings to cover all common area electricity and free WiFi for residents to remotely access work, educational resources, and a variety of support services.

A photo from the garden looking at Solterra apartments. Flowers and vegetables are in the foregroundSolterra not only provides safe, affordable housing, but also provides an indoor environment that is healthy for its residents.   The building is designed with healthy building materials that have low-VOC or no-VOC (harmful chemicals).   There is abundant continuous fresh air to each unit that is pre-heated with a Heat Recovery Ventilation system to save energy.  These features, coupled with a robust services program, including a telehealth program through Greater Portland Health, demonstrate the priority placed on resident health and wellness.

“The completion of Solterra during the COVID-19 pandemic is a true testament to the hard work and professionalism of all involved,” said Cheryl Sessions, executive director of the Portland Housing Authority. “Solterra has provided hope for many families who are seeking affordable rental housing in the City of Portland, and it demonstrates the city’s commitment to build forward-thinking, environmentally sustainable, energy efficient, accessible and beautiful affordable housing.”

Portland Housing Authority would also 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.

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