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January 14, 2020

New England Ocean Cluster to take over part of science center space

Patrick Arnold and Chris Cary on Portland's waterfront. Photo / Tim Greenway Patrick Arnold, left, co-founder and CEO of the New England Ocean Cluster, and chief operating and marketing officer Chris Cary have big plans for the future Ocean Cluster House, set to open in Portland on March 18 at 68 Commercial St.

Nearly two years after the Portland Science Center ended its run on Portland's waterfront, a new tenant is preparing to splash down, on the second floor of 68 Commercial St.

The New England Ocean Cluster, a member-based, marine-focused consultancy, business incubator and accelerator, is targeting a March 18 opening for the "Hus" (Icelandic for house, or building) in the renovated, 8,500-square-foot second-floor space.

Billed as a collaborative, blue-economy workspace, the facility will house 20 offices, including two for Ocean Cluster staff; 16 permanent workstations for students, entrepreneurs and growing companies, an executive boardroom with a wraparound balcony; two breakout rooms; a presentation space; and a large kitchenette and dining area. Like the affiliated Ocean Cluster House in Reykjavik, Iceland, there will also be a coffee machine on the premises.

Photo / Peter Van Allen
A view of the now-defunct Portland Science Center on the city's waterfront.

"We want to draw in presidents of banks and fishermen, biomedical entities, cosmetic entities, engineers, venture capitalists, artists" and others, Patrick Arnold, co-founder and CEO of the New England Ocean Cluster, told Mainebiz, likening the organization's new anchor to a restaurant-grade kitchen for business innovation. 

"Once you have that kitchen," he added, "it's important to have the right ingredients businesses and entrepreneurs that are interested in developing new products, new lines of revenue in ocean-related ways that are fully environmentally sustainable."

U.S. Sen. Angus King, who toured the Portland facility last week, is already a fan. 

“I’ve visited the original Ocean Cluster House in Iceland and seen firsthand the benefits that come when you put entrepreneurial people under one roof to share ideas," he told Mainebiz via email. "Given Maine’s vast ocean resources, we are well-positioned to apply this model to our state and build a sustainable ‘blue economy.'

He added: "The leadership of the folks at the Ocean Cluster House are helping make this possibility a reality. Their work will help create good, sustainable jobs that support our economy and our environment – a win-win worth celebrating.”

Eight letters of intent

The upcoming move follows a lengthy renovation by the building's owner and tenant, fintech entrepreneur Steve Goodrich, and more than five years after Arnold founded the New England Ocean Cluster with Thor Sigfusson, founder and chairman of the Iceland Ocean Cluster.

Financial details about the Portland renovation and rental cost for the group were not immediately available.

But Arnold said that they had already secured eight letters of intent for offices at the new space that are being converted into leases. There will also be collaborative workspace and facilities for events, workshops and meetings. 

Chris Cary, New England Ocean Cluster's chief operating and marketing officer, elaborated on the notion of a collaborative workspace and how it differs from a co-working model. 

"We're connecting people so they can work with one another in some way that is connected with the ocean," Cary said. "You don't have to work in the ocean industry yet, but you have to have a vested interest in it to get the most out of this space."

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