Portland, ME - New Construction Continued

Max

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I think there's been some discussion on here previously about the perpetually under-renovation Schwartz building at the corner of Congress and High Streets. I caught a glimpse of this month's Mainer on the rack and in a rare turn of events was actually intrigued by the cover story. It's basically a profile of this guy Geoffrey Rice, who apparently inherited a bunch of properties that his parents bought all over the city like 50 or 60 years ago.

It's a long and rambling piece, but I was mostly interested in trying to learn why this guy is seemingly not interested in rehabbing his properties, particularly this important building. One possible explanation is that the properties may be held as part of a trust that prevents him from selling them, and so he's not motivated by a resale factor. It also sounds like it's possible the guy is just a strange dude who is simply not motivated to make renovations, for whatever reasons. I wish there was some recourse the city could take because I think it's a key building to reviving Congress Square and it's a damn shame that it's languishing in this shape.
 
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Portlander

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Max, your ability to uncover this stuff continues to amaze me and this project will fill in one of the last vacant lots on the land side of Commercial Street. I like the concave bend of the front facade.
 

Portlander

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I've had a few discussions with the manager who has the difficult task of maintaining his portfolio and your observations are correct Max. He is an eclectic elderly individual in the similar mode of Joe Soley but not as focused on the financial success of his buildings. The Trelawny Building (Longfellow Square) is his most recognizable structure and it remains in a sad state of repair even with some of the exterior paint work that was completed a few years ago, he just does not care. Maybe plans will move forward with the Schwartz Building once the city finally gets the reconstruction of Congress Square underway which has also been a painfully long process.
 
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Cosakita18

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MainePublic is seeking a text amendment to allow for extra height for a recessed 5th floor on their proposed new headquarters at 29 Commercial. No real renderings in their materials other than these general images to show massing.

View attachment 18446
I think this is great massing for an infill parcel. This whole block (Commercial / Franklin / Fore / India) Definitely feels like a big hole between the old port and the “new port” It’s great to finally see some density here!
 

DanielPWM19

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I think this is great massing for an infill parcel. This whole block (Commercial / Franklin / Fore / India) Definitely feels like a big hole between the old port and the “new port” It’s great to finally see some density here!
Maybe next, the lot between Five County FCU and Arabica? Would love to see that entire block, and the rest of where Jordan's Meats was filled in. Middle Street still has some open lots near Old Port Title, Duck Fat etc. If they could revitalize Franklin Arterial and make it more pedestrian friendly, it would be fantastic. Still would love to see the Portland Square block filled out. Tons of open lots in the East End too. I'm surprised the lot across from the Civic Center (corner of Free & Center) has never been developed. Maybe Redfern can stick another 18-Story building here too? Haha
 

PWMFlyer

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It seems like the apartment/condo well has dried up in Portland. I dont see any significant developments in the horizon. With land at a premium, material costs so high, add a progressive agenda, workforce mandates, and voter approved legislation...unless i am wrong. Thoughts????
 

Cosakita18

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There really is nothing notable on the Horizon aside from maybe the Roux Institute plan, which is still entirely conceptual at this point. A few small projects here and there, but definitely a substantial slowdown.

Its honestly a bit concerning. There have been at least 3 large projects previously in the planning or design phase that are essentially dead indefinitely:
- Portland Square
- 385 Congress
- Franklin / Somerset Residential project near Whole Foods (which to my knowledge was still in a very early planning stage, but is now dead)

There are other projects with uncertain futures too (170 Fore St, 45 Brown St)

Obviously there are a lot of factors at play. The current void of proposals can't entirely be blamed on local politics, but when you compare Portland to other cities like Providence, Burlington or Worcester, and consider the fact that we are widely seen as a very popular and desirable place to live...we are definitely doing something wrong when it comes to building new housing. There's an abundance of demand but no incentive to build.
 
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DanielPWM19

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There really is nothing notable on the Horizon aside from maybe the Roux Institute plan, which is still entirely conceptual at this point. A few small projects here and there, but definitely a substantial slowdown.

Its honestly a bit concerning. There have been at least 3 large projects previously in the planning or design phase that are essentially dead indefinitely:
- Portland Square
- 385 Congress
- Franklin / Somerset Residential project near Whole Foods (which to my knowledge was still in a very early planning stage, but is now dead)

There are other projects with uncertain futures too (170 Fore St, 45 Brown St)

Obviously there are a lot of factors at play. The current void of proposals can't entirely be blamed on local politics, but when you compare Portland to other cities like Providence, Burlington or Worcester, and consider the fact that we are widely seen as a very popular and desirable place to live...we are definitely doing something wrong when it comes to building new housing. There's an abundance of demand but no incentive to build.
Haha - can this be provided as a memo to City Council? Seriously ...
 

Max

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We haven't seen any substantial new construction proposals in the last twelve months or so, but there is a remarkable amount of development underway or about to get underway. Certainly it's the most active period for development in the city since at least the late 80's. It's not all housing, but off the top of my head, current projects include:
  • 201 Federal Street apartments
  • Hobson's Landing condos
  • Daymark condos on Chestnut Street (starting to see this from multiple elevations in the city)
  • 52 Hanover Street -- huge project with 171 apartments
  • Maine Medical Center additions
  • Redevelopment of Mercy Hospital and addition of housing on Winter Street -- 200+ apartments
  • Redevelopment of 45 Forest Ave into 60+ apartments
  • Shipyard / Covetrus complex (going into year 4 of construction!)
  • 5 India Street -- 25+ apartments (looks kinda cool too)
  • 218 Washington Ave condos
  • 83 Middle Street -- 50+ affordable apartments
  • Massive construction project at USM with discussion of more to come
  • Whatever's going on at Portland Foreside
  • Bunch of stuff like the redevelopment of Time & Temp Building, Roux Institute, new Maine Public headquarters, etc., that is in various stages of planning.
All that said, there is definitely a huge void that needs to be filled regarding housing and it is odd to me that we aren't seeing big proposals to help meet that need. The aforementioned Top of the Old Port and Portland Square lots would seem ripe for substantial housing developments, but I don't know enough about the ins-and-outs of development to understand why we haven't seen those proposals yet. Probably all of the above in terms of material and labor costs and availability, Green New Deal requirements, etc., are factors in why we aren't seeing big new proposals right now.
 

Cosakita18

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This is a great summary, and you're right there is A LOT going on now! I'd also add the "WEX Phase 3" project, IMT Cold Storage, Thompsons Point and Rock Row (although technically Westbrook)

I'm cautiously optimistic that once the current round of projects are completed and occupied, we'll start to see new proposals filter in as construction prices stabilize and developers find ways to adapt to GND requirements. One small positive of the current slowdown is that any future projects won't have to sit in the "queue" as long to go through the Master/Site plan review and permitting process. I recall back before Covid some projects had to wait months just to get their first planning board workshop.

Also worth remembering that GND requirements only apply to residential projects with 9 units or more, and there have actually been an uptick in small <9 unit proposals. Taking a "glass half full" view...the GND might incentivize smaller infill projects which could bring more density to off-peninsula neighborhoods.
 
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markhb

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Top of the Old Port is easy to explain: the owner is profiting hand over fist with that parking lot and has little interest in selling it. The 3 and 4 Portland Square lots I'm less sure of unless the convenience of on-site parking for workers in the existing office towers is a recruitment selling point.
 

DanielPWM19

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Encouraging discussion and wisdom. Maybe we can get by with additional in-fill where it's abundantly needed (in lots suited for smaller 3-4 story apartment buildings like we've seen spotted in the East End)?? Hopefully with the Roux Institute, it will really necessitate the need for larger growth and more "vision" by the city council.
 

cneal

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A couple more:

Front Street phase 1 (60 units in 4 buildings) is under construction in East Deering:


337 Cumberland (60 new apartments and a daycare expansion in a new 6-story building) is getting ready to go under construction in the next few months:


Douglass St. cooperative housing (112 units) just got its zone change and will probably apply for site plan approvals soon:


The same cooperative development group is also planning an even bigger neighborhood development on formerly city-owned land off Lambert St. near the Falmouth border.
 

Portlander

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337b.jpg

A few more renderings of 337 Cumberland just in case anyone missed it.
 

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