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Updated: April 29, 2024 30th Anniversary

Portland’s changing skyline: A landscape changed by development projects, new ideas

File Photo / Tim Greenway The view of the new development near Fore and Hancock streets in Portland, 2019

Maine’s identity as a place to do business depends on a lot of factors, but one way we’ve seen major changes is in real estate projects from around the state.

Occasionally, the projects were the brainchild of one person, but in many cases they were group efforts that relied on the cooperation of real estate developers, local planning boards, investors, Maine’s financing agencies and the state’s congressional delegation, which often came up with money to get projects over the hump.

This is only an overview of some of the projects that have had a mark on Maine in the past three decades.

Possibly the most dramatic change has been the look of Portland’s East End, with the construction of corporate headquarters for WEX Inc. and Covetrus led to new construction from Sun Life, as well as the addition of the Roux Institute (which leases space from WEX at 100 Fore St.). Much of this had been vacant land.

The corporate development led, in turn, to condo development, the AC Hotel and numerous restaurants, including the award-winning Twelve.

Let’s not forget that, by the early 1990s, much of the East End was very raw, as least as far as commercial development. In 1994, Shipyard Brewing Co. took over a former factory, carting out Dumpsters of debris. Shipyard, along with Geary, helped spark Maine’s craft beer movement.

Fast forward to today, elsewhere on the Portland peninsula, Maine’s tallest building, the Casco, at 18 stories, recently opened. More importantly, it includes 263 much-needed apartments.

A rendering of the planned Roux Institute campus on the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory.

Other Portland development

At Thompson’s Point, the addition of the Maine Children’s Museum & Theatre in [2019] was the tipping point for redevelopment of a stagnant piece of land that had been the subject of earlier redevelopment proposals. Thompson’s Point now includes a Bissell Bros. Brewery, as well as concert venue, skating rink, event space and retail.

In Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, with the relocation of a city maintenance depot, the city opened up six parcels to redevelopment. The result was hundreds of housing units, brew pubs and restaurants, commercial and retail space.

Other significant developments, in brief

  • Maine Med expansion. In recent years, Maine Health has invested more than $500 million to expand.
  • At the former B&M baked beans factory, a development partnership called IDEALs is seeking city approval for a mixed-use campus where the Roux Institute would be the anchor tenant.
  • Bangor waterfront redevelopment, with the addition of Waterfront Concerts, Bangor Savings Bank headquarters and the Hollywood Casino & Racetrack.
  • MBNA development in Belfast area: Starting in the mid-1990s and driven by a CEO with local connections, the banking giant brought thousands of jobs and redeveloped parts of Belfast, west of the town center.
  • The rebirth of military installations: Brunswick Landing’s rebirth from a U.S. Navy air base to a business park, including TechPlace, and the plans for Loring Commerce Centre’s redevelopment.
  • Waterville’s downtown redevelopment, including the Lockwood Hotel and Paul J. Schupf Center for the Arts.
  • Scarborough Downs made the transition from a horse-racing track to a 500-acre campus that includes more than 500 units of housing, an Innovation Park, Costco and, still to come, downtown center.
  • Rock Row is the redevelopment of a former quarry into a retail center with Market Basket, REI, Starbucks, Chik-fil-A, Chase and other shops. A medical campus is under construction.
  • Redevelopment of the Madison Mill as TimberHP, a manufacturer of insulation.
  • Development of the Camden Harbor.
  • Wind turbines added to Vinalhaven for Fox Islands Energy.

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