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December 31, 2018

Cold storage facility may have new life with Port Authority proposal

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Jonathan Nass, CEO of Maine Port Authority, is shown at the International Marine Terminal in Portland. Nass says the state will proceed with plans to build a cold-storage warehouse in Portland without Americold Realty Trust as a partner by using a combination of state and private investments.

Maine Port Authority hopes to leverage $8 million in state funding and use federal tax incentives to spur another $8 million in private investment to erect a cold-storage warehouse that would enhance Portland's competitiveness as an international and domestic port.

The Portland Press Herald reported that Maine Port Authority members recently approved allocating $8 million from Maine's transportation budget to jumpstart plans to build a cold storage facility near the International Marine Terminal.

Maine Department of Transportation included funding for a cold storage facility on Portland's waterfront in its three-year work plan for 2017-19, which said the investment in the facility would support "the food and beverage industry in Maine" and, along with the expanded freight yard, improve the International Marine Terminal's capabilities for international and domestic shipping.

Jonathan Nass, CEO of Maine Port Authority, told the Portland Press Herald that the state hopes to match the $8 million in its three-year work plan with $8 million in private investment that would be raised through the federal New Markets Tax Credit program providing a 39% income tax credit for qualified projects.

As reported by Mainebiz in June, the Maine Department of Transportation decided to go ahead with plans to build a cold-storage warehouse in Portland without Americold Realty Trust (NYSE: COLD) as a partner, welcoming the chance to take a more hands-on role in the long-awaited project.

"We think it's good news," Nass, then-deputy commissioner with the Maine Department of Transportation who became the port authority's CEO in September, said of Americold's decision to pull out. "We spent a lot of time waiting for other folks' decisions for this project … and we've been ready to go for some time."

Atlanta-based Americold, which has a market value of $3.2 billion, had won the bid to design and build a cold-storage warehouse on Portland's western waterfront in 2015 and pledged to invest up to $30 million. But the company kept a low profile throughout a long-drawn out planning process that dragged on for about a year and a half — in part due to citizens opposed to a zoning change that would allow for the construction of a 68-foot-tall facility while increasing building heights elsewhere on the western waterfront from 45 feet to 65 feet.

"After three years of careful study, Americold has decided to forego development of a new facility at the 40 W. Commercial St. site along the Fore River in Portland, Maine," the company said in a written statement emailed to Mainebiz.

Nass said then that state officials remain "firmly convinced" the market is there for a cold-storage facility in Portland, backed by various studies, saying: "We are absolutely certain of this need and we're ready to dig in and get this thing done."

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