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June 12, 2024

Portland Planning Board OKs plan for Roux Institute building at former B&M site

Rendering / Courtesy, IDEALS A rendering of the proposed Northeastern University's Roux Institute campus, which would be developed by IDEALS.

A plan to build a graduate campus for the Roux Institute at the former B&M baked bean factory in Portland's East Deering neighborhood will move forward — but not without concerns over parking and traffic. 

On Tuesday night, the Portland Planning Board approved the site plan for constructing the campus, which would be developed by a separate entity.

During the meeting, several board members expressed concern about potential traffic in the neighborhood. To discourage students from driving there, board members suggested offering less parking on the campus. 

Residents and business owners in the area voiced their concerns about the current plans, saying they need more solutions to reduce traffic.

The Roux Institute, which is housed in rented space at 100 Fore St. on Portland's East End, hopes to move into the new space by 2027. Roux is part of Northeastern University.

Traffic concerns

With some 5,000 students expected to use the campus, concerns were raised about traffic.

Suzanne Foley-Ferguson, owner of Beals Ice Cream on Veranda Street, said she supports the project but is concerned about losing parking near her shop due to the increased traffic in the area. 

"You can tell people not to drive their cars, but in Maine, from October through September, I don't have customers coming by bike or walking when it's raining or snowing," said Foley-Ferguson.

"I run from April through October. I am concerned about how the left-hand turn lane being eliminated will affect my business. It's a great project and I think you're going to grow. You need an exit off of Interstate 295, or you need a shuttle." 

To reduce traffic, one resident suggested an off-site satellite parking lot with a shuttle service to the new campus. A shuttle has not been included in Roux's traffic-mitigation plan.

Representatives from Roux told the planning board that they would look into off-site satellite parking if traffic became an issue. 

During the meeting, two amendments were added to the site plan.

  • One stated that if METRO does not provide bus service into the campus, Roux must return to the planning board for amendments to the traffic management plan.
  • The second amendment requires Roux to monitor traffic and submit an updated monitoring report that includes traffic, delays, mode shares and an updated signal warrant analysis of Sherwood and Veranda streets. The results will then need to be shared with the planning board.

The Roux Institute, a graduate and research center for computer engineering and life science, now leases space from WEX Inc. Roux plans to transform the historic B&M baked bean factory at 1 Bean Pot Circle into its dedicated headquarters.

The new campus is expected to open in 2027.

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