St. Joseph's Convent, The Motherhouse

Photo by Todd Caverly

Photo by Todd Caverly

605 Stevens Avenue, Portland

The Issue

With a dwindling number of Sisters of Mercy living in the large Motherhouse at 605 Stevens Avenue, the sisters decided to close their Motherhouse in 2005 and sell the 18.98 acre property on which it stands. The Motherhouse, once home to scores of nuns, has been vacant for years except for minimal use as administrative offices or use of the chapel by the McAuley students and staff. Since 1865 the Sisters of Mercy have created a long legacy of compassion and community service that remains in their affiliations at Mercy Hospital, Saint Joseph's College, and Catherine McAuley High School.

Our Position

As part of a larger redevelopment of the site into a senior living community, a developer proposes to rehabilitate the Motherhouse into senior housing. As a former convent, the structure has wide hallways, common areas, grand stairways and the stunning three story chapel complete with stained glass windows, altar, and a grand organ.  The building will be converted into 66 affordable and 22 market rate senior apartments and the common areas will be preserved to serve future phases of the redevelopment. The project will use Low Income Housing and Historic Preservation Tax Credits. All design and construction work and materials will conform to the Department of the Interior standards for rehabilitation and preservation under the Historic Tax Credit review process.


Work is underway! After an period of inactivity pending an appeal filed by neighborhood residents to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court interior demolition is now underway. The court found in late 2016 that the city acted within it authority when it approved rezoning the parcel to allow greater density.  Landmarks has supported the rehabilitation of the Motherhouse into senior housing as it provides a compatible reuse of the building, much needed housing, and the work will be undertaken in a manner that meets the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Historic Preservation in order to receive historic tax credits. The proposed new construction of 161 market rate apartments behind the Motherhouse is set back from the historic building and is a compatible use. The new construction will help finance the rehabilitation project and is integral to a successful reuse of the historic building. 

During the interim while the court case was proceeding, the Convent and Academy buildings that comprise the Motherhouse were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings were added to the register in March of 2017. The listing allows the project to be completed using Federal and State Historic Tax Credits, saving a historic Deering landmark and adding to the affordable senior housing stock in the city.



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