November 12, 2019
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Family behind mass eviction in Portland runs Massachusetts foundation for children

Callie Ferguson | BDN
Callie Ferguson | BDN
At least 16 households are being evicted for no cause from this Harvard Street apartment complex, after a new owner, 240 Harvard Street LLC, decided to renovate the property and no longer wants to house tenants on rental assistance.

Update: The letters evicting low-income Portland tenants were sent in error. Read the latest story here.

The company that recently purchased a Portland apartment complex and is evicting a large number of low-income families there was formed by members of a Massachusetts family known for their philanthropy, according to a public corporate filing.

Last month, at least 16 tenants who use a federally subsidized housing voucher to help pay their rent at 240 Harvard St., an eight-building complex in the city’s North Deering neighborhood, received eviction notices ordering them to leave by Dec. 31, according the Portland Housing Authority, which administers the vouchers. The notices said the new owner decided not to rent to people using the public assistance program and intended to renovate the property.

The decision will force the affected tenants, many of which are families, to spend the holiday season looking for inexpensive housing in a city with a shortage of affordable places to live, in what appears to be the largest mass eviction in Portland in recent years.

The eviction notices only referred to the new owner of the complex as a company called 240 Harvard Street LLC. The corporation was formed in September by Andrew M. Davis, Stephen A. Davis and John H. Davis, according to a corporate filing that established the company in Massachusetts.

The address listed for the company on the filing — One Monarch Place, Suite 1300, in Springfield, Massachusetts — is the same address as The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, a private family foundation where John H. Davis and Stephen A. Davis serve on the board of directors, according to its website. The foundation’s philanthropy primarily focuses on early childhood education and literacy.

The late Irene Davis “spent some of her childhood in an orphanage and was sensitive to those in need. She believed that those with resources should give back to their community,” according to the foundation’s website. Following the death of her husband, George, “the foundation was established to formalize Irene’s generosity.” Eventually, her three grandchildren became trustees of the foundation.

“The hope is for this spirit of helping others and sharing wealth to continue for generations to come,” according to its website, which also states that the organization is one of the largest family foundations in Massachusetts.

Andrew Davis is the president of Chestnut Realty Management, a commercial real estate company, where he oversees the financing of new transactions for the firm’s investment strategies, according to the company’s website. His deals focus on single-family homes, town homes, garden style condominiums and apartments, and mobile home parks.

No one affiliated with 240 Harvard Street LLC returned multiple messages on Tuesday seeking comment on the Portland property’s future. Andrew Davis did not return an email or a phone call at his real estate company. A message and email left with the family foundation for John and Stephen Davis was not returned. A Portland lawyer and a Springfield lawyer registered for the corporation they formed to buy the apartment complex did not return a phone call. The executive director of Davis Foundation did not immediately respond to a phone call.

Since the trio’s real estate company purchased the apartment complex in Portland last month, the low-income tenants facing eviction have worried about their ability to find a new place to live in a city dealing with an affordable housing crisis. Many are families. As of Tuesday morning, seven of them had contacted Pine Tree Legal Assistance after they received “no cause” eviction notices on Oct. 17, said attorney Katie McGovern. One of her clients has lived at the property for more than 20 years, she said.

Stephen and John Davis have been honored for their involvement in Massachusetts civic life, where they serve on boards for health, education, and economic and community development organizations, according to the family foundation website. In 2017, John Davis was named a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Council of Champions, a group that included U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and actor Morgan Freeman and aims to increase third grade reading proficiency across the country.

Andrew Davis is on the board of trustees for Bay Path University, a private college in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, according to its website. The university website also states that he used to serve on the board of HAP Housing, the largest affordable housing development organization in western Massachusetts.

Maine Focus is a journalism and community development initiative at the Bangor Daily News. Questions? Write to mainefocus@bangordailynews.com.

 



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