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January 25, 2023

Real Estate Insider notebook: 800 housing units for West Bayside; MaineHousing's outlook and more

aerial of city with color blocks COURTESY / PORT PROPERTY Seen here is a mock-up of some of the West Bayside properties owned by Port Property, with a garage acquired in October 2022 on the left.

Port Property this week unveiled a master plan for development that calls for 800 units of rental housing in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood. 

The housing would be developed over 10 years.

Port Property has been active in West Bayside. In October, the Portland-based firm held a topping off ceremony for its $72 million mixed-use development of 52 Hanover St. then announced it had acquired additional properties in the neighborhood. The $25 million off-market deal, finalized Oct. 13, was brokered by Joe Porta and Charles Day of Porta & Co., representing the buyer and seller, respectively. It invested another $20 million in a parking garage nearby

Port Property has roughly 180,000 square feet of commercial and retail property.

Founded in 1993, and headquartered in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, Port Property serves as the management arm of a multi-faceted group that also includes investment, development and construction divisions, Bush Watson and Tom Watson & Co.

Its master plan, which was submitted to the Portland Planning Board for consideration, calls for 800 units of rental housing, with mixed-use community space, connectivity and increased pedestrian access.

The plan calls for five phases of development that would include:

  • Construction of seven new buildings
  • 200-plus affordable housing units
  • 600-plus market-rate units
  • 28,500 square feet of new commercial space. 

Along with this new construction, the plan also outlines the retention and renovation of existing commercial and institutional buildings, as well as retrofitting the Public Market parking garage with infill retail and amenity uses.

Port Property’s team includes Stantec’s Urban Places Studio and Acorn Engineering.

The developer says the proposed project aligns with the City's planning goals and prioritizes a sustainable and equitable community within West Bayside that reinforces the area’s local heritage.

Keep in mind, a significant portion of the West Bayside neighborhood had at one time been devoted to city maintenance garages, which were sold in blocks to five developers in 2017. 

And Port Property says many of the proposed new builds would be sited on surface parking lots, adding new mixed-use communities without displacing existing structures. The plan calls for “thoughtfully designed buildings that incorporate visual diversity, combining contemporary and existing architectural elements, and will employ a ‘step-down’ approach in height to seamlessly blend within the neighborhood’s current landscape,” the developer said. 

"As a local team headquartered in West Bayside, Port Property is deeply committed to this neighborhood and has worked to continually strengthen this community throughout the years. We are steadfast in our goal to create a vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhood that meets the needs of current and future residents, all while honoring the history and character of the area,” said John Laliberte, Port Property’s head of acquisition and development for southern Maine. 

The firm says its master development plan is considered an optional tool that can outline large, multi-phase projects, giving the city the option to approve the overall concept. It will still require subsequent plan applications and approvals. 

Port Property hopes to move forward on Phase 1 by 2024, with a 2025 delivery. 

MaineHousing looks at what’s ahead for 2023

Inflation, worker shortages in the construction industry and lingering global supply chain “kinks” are just a few of the challenges the housing industry will face this year, according to MaineHousing, which released its “Outlook 2023” report this week.

The median price for a single-family home rose to $334,000 in 2022, up 13% from $295,000 in 2021. 

MaineHousing said it expects that 2023 will “continue to challenge us with market uncertainty and resource scarcity on all fronts, as we move away from an era of robust (although short-term) federal financial supports,” the agency wrote in its annual briefing.

Here’s what to watch for this year from MaineHousing:

  • A new pilot initiative run by the Genesis Fund to help municipalities, regional planning groups, and new developers gain the technical know-how to advance affordable housing in their areas.
  • Higher interest rates make programs like the MaineHousing First Home Loan an option for borrowers.
  • A priority goal of increasing homeownership for diverse populations in Maine.
  • New non-LIHTC programs, some state-financed, others utilizing remaining federal coronavirus relief funds.
  • New housing-friendly zoning changes happening in some municipalities ahead of the LD 2003 fully effective date. South Portland and Auburn are both recent examples. 
  • Ongoing collaboration on research and development for eco-friendly and cost-effective housing construction, design and manufacturing techniques (3-D printing, additive manufacturing) with partners like University of Maine’s Advanced Composites and Structures Lab.

Fairfield looks to public for feedback on development

The Somerset County town of Fairfield is looking for feedback on the proposed redevelopment of parts of the waterfront and downtown areas.

Fairfield, which is northwest of Waterville and has 6,484 residents, is looking for public comment on the redevelopment of Mill Island Park.

The park has remnants of the old United Boxboard and Paper Co., on the northern end of Mill Island on the Kennebec River. Mill Island Park is owned and maintained by the town of Fairfield.

“Mill Island Park's unique geography, combined with its rich history as a manufacturing and industrial site, highlights the town of Fairfield’s recreational, historical and educational assets, in addition to its expansive waterfront,” said Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling. 

Fairfield’s Economic and Community Development Committee invites the public to participate in a community input and planning workshop to provide feedback on the redevelopment of Mill Island Park.  A public session is planned for Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m., at the Fairfield Community Center Gymnasium, at 61 Water St. in Fairfield. (Snow date would be Feb. 1, same time, same place.) 

Rockport campground under new management

A hospitality company that specializes in campgrounds and outdoor facilities will take over the management of a Rockport campground.

Blue Water Development said it signed a deal to manage Sea Swell Campgrounds, which it touts for “amenity-packed wooded camping [that] is central to scenic Maine harbors and local recreation with incredible views of Penobscot Bay."

Founded in 2002, Ocean City, Md.-based Blue Water Development specializes in investing, developing and managing RV resorts, campgrounds, hotels and attractions. It has 44 properties in 18 states.

Elsewhere in Maine, it has the Sun Outdoors RV resort in Wells and Lebanon KOA on Salmon Falls River, in Lebanon.

Cousins Maine Lobster inks deal for Denver location

Cousins Maine Lobster, a food truck concept that sells lobster rolls, will open a Denver-area location at Joyride Brewing Co. on Saturday, Jan. 28.

The location, which is in Edgewater, Colo., will be led by brothers Raj and Rahul Mohan, who became franchisees in 2020 with the launch of San Francisco-area sites. That market rapidly grew to support three food trucks and will soon expand to a brick-and-mortar location. 

"Denver presented an interesting opportunity for us to offer a unique product via a unique method. There is not a lot of lobster availability for consumers in Denver and the market is very food truck friendly. We have already experienced a warm welcome from breweries and other businesses seeking to partner with us and we are excited to deepen our ties with the community," said Raj Mohan.

"Raj and Rahul have built an impressive team and infrastructure to support their business in San Francisco and we have no doubt that they will replicate that model in Denver," said Cousins Maine Lobster co-founder Sabin Lomac. "Their steady growth has been strategic and they have been innovative partners for us to work with to expand our brand and nationwide."

Cousins Maine Lobster, founded in 2012 by cousins and Mainers Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac, started with one food truck. After appearing on “Shark Tank,” the duo partnered with Barbara Corcoran and began franchising, partnering with local entrepreneurs to bring Maine lobster to over 40 cities nationwide.

Olympia Sports intellectual property to be auctioned

Hilco Streambank, a New York-based intellectual property firm, plans to auction off the intellectual property rights for Olympia Sports, the Maine-based sporting goods chain that closed last year. 

Offers are due Feb. 7. The auction will be Feb. 9.
Assets could include trademarks, customer data, domain names, and so on.

File photo
The former Olympia Sports store in Falmouth.

Olympia Sports was founded in 1975 with its first store in South Portland. It sold sports equipment, fitness gear and apparel, athletic shoes, casual wear and accessories. At one time it had 230 stores in 14 states, but after waves of downsizing liquidated the last of them in 2022. 

“Olympia Sports has been a staple of the Northeast for decades and has garnered a loyal customer base, including over 415,000 customers who have made a purchase in the last two years," said Hilco Streambank Senior Vice President Richelle Kalnit.

"The successful expansion into e-commerce contributed to retail and e-commerce combined sales of over $61 million in 2020 and $75 million in 2021. A buyer of Olympia's intellectual property has the opportunity to leverage a brand known for its quality and reliability when it comes to sporting goods, equipment, and accessories, and to engage with a customer base seeking a trusted outlet for its sporting goods needs."

New England’s economic outlook

The Boston Fed held a seminar last week on the future of the New England economy.

Researchers at the Fed conference examined the region’s strengths and challenges following the pandemic. A link to the video is available online.

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