PORTLAND, Maine — Portland's Old Port is growing. The largest development project the city has seen in decades is underway and set to be completed in the next six years.
Portland Foreside is projected to be a mixed-use neighborhood that will consist of more than 60 businesses and 600 housing units.
The project renovates the former Portland Company site, between Munjoy Hill and the waterfront, where trains were built for more than a century.
According to the Portland Foreside website, the project is designed to "meet the historical significance of the area allowing for year-round enjoyment of Portland’s waterfront."
Within the 10-acre, eight-block lot, there will be housing (apartments and condominiums), office space, hotel lodging, restaurants, local and national retail, and "impeccably designed outdoor spaces to promote communal gathering."
According to the city of Portland, if fully completed to its original master plan, the valuation of the project is estimated at $440 million. At this year's tax rate of $12.99, that would net roughly $5.7 million a year in taxes.
Casey Prentice is a managing partner of the Portland Foreside project. Prentice grew up in Yarmouth and currently lives in Portland. He said he recognizes the significance of this project says the obligation for them to "get it right" is really important.
"It's such an impactful project on the City of Portland," Prentice said, "arguably the most impactful project we will ever do as developers in my career."
Prentice said Portland Foreside isn't a "New Port" or even a "new Old Port," but rather an extension of the Old Port.
"We want the experience of people to be that this is just more of Portland. It's not precious. It's not a defined box," Prentice said.
In line with that, they're creating multiple pathways from the Munjoy Hill neighborhood to the waterfront, where currently there are none.
Sun Life Financial, one of the largest life insurance companies in the world, will be opening an office in the development in the next year.
Farm-to-table restaurant "Twelve," owned by Prentice, will open in the iconic Portland Company "building twelve." The building was taken down brick by brick, allowing workers to give the structure "new bones," and then reassembled brick by brick. The result: the same exact building, with revised structural integrity.
Bard Coffee will be opening another location on the site, and discussions are in progress with dozens of other local business owners, according to Prentice.
Prentice said, "We don't want a bunch of national brands down here that you would see you when you go to New York or Boston or any other larger city. That's not what people come to Portland; it's not what makes Portland special. We want them to have an experience that's unique to here."
Portland Chamber of Commerce President Quincy Hentzel said the Chamber has been supportive of the Portland Foreside project from the start.
"It's going to be incredible transformational not just for the city of Portland, but this region, as well as the entire state," Hentzel said. "The property where Portland Foreside is located has been incredibly underused for years."
She said a mixed-use development that maintains much of the site's original character is what the Chamber and many locals felt was right for this special waterfront property.
"To be able to have a vision to develop and redevelop this piece of property is pretty exciting," Hentzel said.
She said the project underwent a rigorous planning and approval process with the city.
"So this project has gone through many iterations in front of the council and planning board; the public has had the opportunity to weigh in."
Some public concerns raised throughout the process came from some Munjoy Hill residents, concerned about the project blocking their existing views and parking congestion.
Catch this full story on NEWS CENTER Maine on Thursday, October 21.