Smart Growth Awards

GrowSmart Maine is an independent statewide non-profit, funded by member contributions and private and public charitable grants.

Launched in 2018, GrowSmart’s Smart Growth Awards are designed to recognize all the diverse activities that contribute to smart growth, and to serve as real-life illustrations of the benefits it can bring.

The awards showcase the kind of projects, plans, and policies that support smart growth in all its diversity, whether it’s a plan for a walkable and inclusive village center, a development that is affordable and sustainably built, a successful new transit endeavor, or a community-supported adaptation to climate change that safeguards the built or natural environment.

The call for new awards goes out in June, and winners are announced at GrowSmart’s October summit.

Below are the 2019 winners – an amazing array of talented people and innovative projects that are contributing to a more sustainable and prosperous Maine.

2019 Winners

Outstanding Project Award: Millinocket Real Estate Initiative/The Northern Forest Center

The Millinocket Housing Initiative was launched by the Northern Forest Initiative in 2017 to support the Millinocket community by improving the quality of downtown housing to attract and retain workers and families. The Initiative acquired and renovated ten strategically selected, distressed properties in the downtown that presented high visibility opportunities to inspire further investment and downtown development.

The Initiative targeted a focal area in the heart of the community to connect the main street business district, mill site, elementary school, hospital, library and more, which contributes to a more vibrant and walkable downtown. In coordination with the hospital, local non-profits, the Town of Millinocket, and others, the Housing Initiative is a keystone of the community’s housing strategy and a major contributor to the overall revitalization of the community.

The Northern Forest Center integrates economic, community, and environmental principles to gives rise to vibrant communities in a new forest future across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.

Demonstrable Commitment to Smart Growth: Delilah Poupore, Heart of Biddeford

Since 2011, Delilah Poupore has been the Executive Director of the Heart of Biddeford; one of Maine’s most successful and innovative Main Street organizations. In that role, Delilah has become one of Biddeford’s most visible and credible advocates for positive change, inclusive decision-making, and a dynamic and a vibrant downtown that benefits the entire community.

A once-thriving mill town that fell on hard times with the closure of the mills, Biddeford is now one of the fastest growing and most desirable communities in Southern Maine and has experienced a surge of economic revitalization. Delilah has played a key role in promoting, encouraging and facilitating much of this renewed vitality and growth by spearheading several initiatives such as The Heart & Soul project, the City’s first Main Street Challenge, the Adopt-a-Park program, Music in the Park, the annual Downtown Holiday Festival, and the Halloween Trick-or-Treating event.

Delilah has been called “the glue that holds downtown together” and is universally appreciated for her enthusiasm, energy, and leadership.

Outstanding Project Award: Parris Terraces
Awarded to: Kaplan Thompson Architects

When the City of Portland moved their Public Works department out of West Bayside, Kaplan Thompson Architects was selected to build twenty workforce housing apartments – Parris Terraces – with no State or Federal subsidy.

Kaplan Thompson applied Passive House techniques to create an optimized cost-effective system that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of residents, while requiring no fossil fuels to heat or cool. The project has a predicted overall energy use of half of a typical apartment building, all without renewable energy systems installed. Parris Terraces is located near the tidal basin Back Cove, recently named an EPA area of concern. To protect this natural resource, Kaplan Thompson’s designed a system where all storm water from the building is treated onsite through a storm water rain garden of native plantings.

Parris Terraces created 23 housing units, affordable to people in a middle-income segment of the market largely unmet in the current Portland housing market. The project demonstrates that today’s “starter home” can be downtown, stylish, efficient, and affordable to working people.

Outstanding Project Award: Bethel Community Forest/Mahoosuc Pathways

Mahoosuc Pathways, in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center, the Town of Bethel, and area citizens and donors, piloted the creation of the expansive, 978-acre Bethel Community Forest.

In 2019, Mahoosuc Pathways purchased what is now the Bethel Community Forest on behalf of the Town of Bethel. This parcel had previously been targeted for housing development. Mahoosuc Pathways now manages the property for conservation, recreation and wildlife, providing infinite opportunity for recreational trail connectivity, education, recreation, health, and wellness. It protects an important local snowmobile trail, protects traditional hunting lands, and protects one of the most productive deer wintering areas in the state.

The Bethel Community Forest project presents an excellent example of how public land preservation can be achieved through the community forest model and serves as an example for other Maine communities to study and replicate.

Outstanding Project Award: Charter Oaks Village Cooperative

Charter Oaks Village Cooperative is a manufactured housing community, partly in Arundel and partly in Biddeford, where the residents own their home but rent their lot. The community consists of 40 households who, for the most part, earn well below the median income for York County.

For almost 50 years, this park was owned and operated by a local “mom-and-pop” operator who took good care of the community and knew and cared about the residents, but they needed to retire and sell. The park was sold to a private equity investor from Las Vegas, who immediately jacked up the rents and had plans to sell it off quickly for a large profit.

In June 2019, after a concerted community organizing effort, the residents of this park came together and purchased the community to operate it as a resident-owned cooperative. By doing so, the resident homeowners took control of the land that sits beneath their homes and now work together to operate the park on a cooperative basis, allowing the community to permanently remain affordable.

The success of Charter Oaks brings positive attention and renewed interest in the preservation and development of compact neighborhoods of manufactured housing. Reducing the stigma of “trailer parks” will put one of the most practical, cost-effective and resource efficient housing and development options back into the conversation about affordable housing, climate change, and walkable communities.