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July 24, 2017
From the Editor

How much growth is the right amount of growth?

The cover of this issue delves into an issue that seems to be gaining momentum, especially in southern Maine.

We often hear how much demand there is for real estate here. Part of it is the economy has finally, painfully, recovered from the recession. Another aspect is Maine has plenty of old buildings without much new development — in, say, the way you might see in a major city or the Sun Belt.

Mainers like to take a thoughtful, measured approach to development, carefully sizing up what impact new commercial space, stores or houses might have on the surrounding landscape — which indeed attracted many of us to Maine in the first place.

But in recent years we've heard at the MEREDA conference and from commercial real estate brokers that there's a shortage of industrial and warehouse space. From site-selection experts, we've heard that downtown Portland could use more Class A office space. From economists, we've heard that, without adequate affordable housing, it's going to be difficult to attract workers and keep the economy growing.

NIMBY vs. YIMBY

Still, battles continue to be waged over Americold's proposed cold-storage facility on the Portland waterfront. And, as Senior Writer Renee Cordes points out in her cover story, developer Jim Brady invested some three years working with the Munjoy Hill neighborhood to find the right balance for the planned mixed-use development at 58 Fore St.

Renee's story also looks at a measure that could come up for referendum that some worry could have a chilling effect on development in Portland, effectively providing neighborhoods with veto power to quash unwanted proposals while sidestepping the planning board.

On the YIMBY side — Yes, in my back yard — the MEREDA spring conference looked at areas that were saying, "We need houses, retail, offices."

Even with encouragement, few developers would go into project thinking it's a slam dunk. With good reason, many developers are adopting an approach that combines housing, retail and commercial space with stricter standards for energy efficiency and environmental impact. The term being used is smart-growth principles. Laurie Schreiber, a staff writer who compiles the Mainebiz Real Estate Insider, takes a look at developers that are taking this tack. Pro-development, yes, but with an approach that may find less resistance in neighborhoods.

Where art, science and commerce meet

Long before moving to Maine, I made regular pilgrimages to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., another place where the Wyeth name is as legendary as it is on the midcoast. Recently, Senior Writer / Content Specialist Lori Valigra has had a chance to explore Allen Island, where the Wyeth family has created an environment that combines art, science and a working waterfront used by lobstermen. Lori talks to Jamie Wyeth, Island Institute co-founder Phil Conkling and representatives from Colby and Unity colleges, who have come together to form a unique working partnership on the 450-acre island in Muscongus Bay.

Read more

Portland's rezoning of Camelot Farm allows more homes to be built ... unless it's overturned

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