City of Portland prepares to put prime Bayside land on the market

November 14, 2016 in News

Author: Randy Billings
Publication: Portland Press Herald

Four acres of land with significant development potential near Portland’s downtown could be available for sale by the end of the year, according to the city’s economic development director.


Greg Mitchell said city officials will likely choose a real estate broker in the coming weeks for land used by the city’s Public Works Department in Bayside, launching a process that could alter the course of one of Portland’s long-struggling neighborhoods. The only restrictions placed on the sale would be the current zoning, Mitchell said, and the city is open to selling all of the land to one buyer, or selling it by the parcel.

Given the property’s location and zoning, which permits a wide range of uses, Mitchell expects that some sort of mixed-use development – including residential, office, retail and possibly a fitness center – could replace the current industrial-scale uses.

“I think this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Mitchell said. “I think it would have a dramatic impact on spurring more investment in that area. Four acres is quite a piece of real estate in a downtown area. The redevelopment of that area could have a dramatic impact on setting a direction in an area.”

Moving Public Works out of Bayside has been a goal of the city since the 1990s. After toying with potentially moving the department out to Riverside Street, among other options, the city in 2013 began securing a 13-acre site at 212 and 250 Canco Road, an industrial area in the geographic center of the city.

Over the last year, the city focused more attention on the Bayside neighborhood, which is home to a multitude of social service groups, including the homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Last summer, the city directed more police attention to the area to deal with unruly behavior and made more of an effort to pick up litter, sweep the streets and rebuild sidewalks. It also has begun to rethink the way the city provides emergency food and shelter.

Given that the “midtown” project, including more than 400 apartments, has stalled and is possibly being revised again, residents in Bayside hope that the city’s effort to sell and redevelop the public works properties will go more smoothly, said Bayside Neighborhood Association President Steve Hirshon. He noted that after five years of planning for the midtown development, no shovel has hit the ground.

Hirshon suggested that residents are cautiously optimistic about the future.

“We understand there’s a lot of potential for development in the neighborhood, and obviously that’s exciting, but there’s the issue of: How do you maintain a neighborhood that managed to survive the fire of 1866?” Hirshon said, referring to the fire that destroyed a third of the city’s downtown area. “I think we’d like to maintain a semblance of what we have, and at the same time, welcome whatever new comes along.”

The estimated cost for relocating the Public Works Department is $15.5 million, with about $8.4 million already appropriated. On Monday, the City Council allocated $1 million from the recent sale of 3½ acres of land on Somerset Street to Federated Cos. for the midtown project toward upgrading facilities at Canco Road, leaving about $7 million in remaining costs.

Mitchell said most of the public works operations, except for its fleet services at 44 Hanover St., have been moved to Canco Road. Administrative offices at 55 Portland St. will remain for now, but that building may be put on the market at a later date.

Moving fleet services would require a new building at Canco Road, so that would not occur until funding is secured, either through a bond or using revenue from the sale of the land, or a combination.

The city expects to open bids from potential real estate brokers Tuesday, Mitchell said. “I would expect we would make decisions quickly in hiring a broker,” he said.

The city is looking to immediately list four properties and may list an additional three properties, all of which are scattered throughout the area generally bordered by Portland, Alder and Kennebec streets and Forest Avenue, according to a request for proposals for commercial real state brokers. The properties to be listed are 56 Parris St.; 82 Hanover St.-158 Kennebec St.; 65 Hanover St.-52 Alder St.; and 44 Hanover St.

The properties are split between two business zones, which in some cases allow for 105-foot-tall buildings. Two parcels – a nearly 1.3-acre site at 82 Hanover St. and a nearly 1-acre site at 44 Hanover St. – could potentially be combined, according to the RFP, which also contemplates extending Somerset Street to Hanover Street and realigning Kennebec Street to Forest Avenue. Other properties, namely 55 Portland St., 178 Kennebec St., and 181 Forest Ave., may also be put up for sale.

Mitchell said he suspects that existing brick buildings could be renovated and incorporated into any new development plan, while open lots and a metal shed at 44 Hanover St., which houses fleet services, could be remade from scratch.

Mitchell declined to say how much he believed the city could get for the property, other than to say it could be a “significant” amount.

He said the real estate market is strong, the property is close to downtown, and there is already development going on in Bayside, including the new Chipotle and Bangor Savings Bank locations on Marginal Way, the expansion of Bayside Bowl on Alder Street and the conversion of the Schlotterbeck & Foss building on Portland Street into market-rate housing consisting of a mix of 56 studio and one-bedroom apartments.

“I feel there is a very high level of interest,” Mitchell said. “We’re continuing to see development in Bayside and we’re in the center of that.”


Green Clean moves from leased space to new $425K Portland HQ

October 31, 2016 in News

Author: LAURIE SCHREIBER
Publication: Mainebiz

PORTLAND — A gung-ho cleaning service, Green Clean Maine, has been skyrocketing since its founding in 2007.


That's why founder and CEO Joe Walsh decided to buy larger quarters to house the business.

Walsh purchased the 4,768-square-foot, three-level office building at 583 Warren Ave. in Portland, just west of the Maine Turnpike/I-95 overpass, from Casey & Paige LLC for $425,000. The deal closed Sept. 16.

Amenities include 25 onsite parking spaces plus a two-bay garage and deck. Walsh was represented by Matthew Cardente and Mark Sandler of Cardente Real Estate. Mark Malone of Malone Commercial Real Estate represented the seller.

"Joe and I had been searching for properties over the past year," said Sandler. "This property fit perfectly into our mix of an owner/user investment property. Joe has the option to use a portion of the property to grow other aspects of his business or lease it out for extra income."

Reached by phone after attending the Goldman Sachs "10,000 Small Businesses" program in Boston, Walsh said the new space is about six times larger than the current leased space.

"We're moving out of an 800-square-foot space. It's tiny," he said. "I can't even believe we've been there that long."

The new building and grounds will allow for continued growth. That includes space for equipment for the field staff, supplies like low-moisture mop systems, high-performance commercial backpack vacuums, all-natural handmade cleaning formulas, cleaning trays, microfiber cloths, cotton cloths for glass, terrycloth mops for floors and microfiber dusters to get up high and down low.

There's now also more space for the growing administrative and customer service office staff and a laundry plant with washers and dryers. The crew launders 1,500 to 2,000 cleaning cloths per day, a production line where the company produces cleaning supplies and will eventually package them for consumer sales. Outside is a fleet of environmentally friendly electric hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles.

The building is about 40 years old and in good shape, requiring minimal renovations such as paint and carpeting.

"It was already laid out in a way that, when I walked in I knew it would be great for us," said Walsh.

The move was planned for Oct 22-23.

Non-toxic cleaners can't keep up with demand

Walsh's entrée into cleaning services was a surprising turn from his previous career as an advertising salesman for the Sunrise Guide, a Westbrook-based publication about healthy and sustainable resources. He was approaching environmentally friendly residential cleaning services about advertising.

"Everyone I talked with who was doing it in a nontoxic way said they couldn't advertise because they already couldn't keep up with demand," he recalled.

The popularity of the service and the promise of good money meshed with his personal predilection for a clean and tidy home. He received a $5,000 grant from the Libra Future Fund and got his first client, a friend with a condo, in October 2007. He hired his first employee in January 2008. Now he has 30 employees and, he said, the company is the largest residential cleaning service in Maine, with about 400 subscribers, from Saco to Freeport, who register for an average of 3.5 to 4 years, with the average client signing up for bi-weekly service.

Recently, he was a finalist in the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development's "Top Gun" program, developing a vision for the company's future. Plans include additional services such as helping homeowners with other aspects of their lives, such as dog-walking, carpet-washing and concierge services.

Walsh plans to expand the commercial cleaning side. And he plans to increase production of natural cleaning supplies, which use baking soda, vinegar, essential oils and other plant-based ingredients. Customers often ask to buy his supplies, so he's developed product labels and is finalizing packaging for sales.

"This building will make room to add divisions and service lines as we grow," he said.

Also, the property is over two acres, so there's enough land and buffer to add at least another 5,000 square feet of space.

"That's part of the property's appeal as well," he said.

So why does he like to clean?

"I'm a little bit of a perfectionist," he said. "It's the satisfaction you get from making something just right, starting off with something dirty or chaotic and making it clean and neat. But what I didn't like was the chemical part. I was interested in creating an environmental benefit and making money at the same time."

Editor's note: Green Clean Maine cleans the Mainebiz offices.


Three solid quarters in 2016 and counting for southern Maine's commercial real estate market

October 31, 2016 in News

Author: Matthew Cardente
Publication: New England Real Estate Journal

Heading into the 4th quarter of 2016, the commercial real estate market in Southern Maine remains strong with no immediate signs of a slowdown. Several key indications of the ongoing market strength include low / declining vacancy rates, high buyer demand, and limited supply of investment grade properties.



Office

Year to date, the leasing market for higher end office has performed well for landlords in Portland and the surrounding municipalities. One prime example is Ocean Gate Plaza located at 511 Congress St. in Port- land. Approximately 100,000 s/f of this 130,000 s/f complex consists of nine stories of class A office space that is currently 100% leased. At the time the property was purchased in March of 2014, the office vacancy rate for the office tower was closer to 9%. CBRE, The Boulos Co. produces an annual office market survey based on approximately 12 million s/f of class A and B office in Greater Portland. “The overall office vacancy in Greater Portland continues to trend downward and is likely in the 5% range heading into the 4th quarter”, said Drew Sigfridson, managing director & partner of CBRE the Boulos Company, “ We have witnessed a flight to quality over the past year with class A office vacancy rates likely below 4% for both suburban and downtown buildings. However, class B and lower quality product continue to experience prolonged vacancies.”

Retail

Southern Maine’s retail market is flourishing as well. In March, the 13-acre Falmouth Plaza was pur- chased by developer Matthew Orne for $11.55 million on Feb. 2, 2016. Located approximately 10 minutes from downtown Portland, the purchase chase of retail complex included a 92,000 s/f Wal-Mart and the adjacent vacant Regal Cinema. Later this year, Flagship Cinemas leased the former cinema and is now open for business after the 15,000 s/f unit was vacant for four years. Steve Baumann of Compass Commercial Brokers handled the sale and cinema lease for the new owner. Other positive signs for the market is the lack of inventory for lease in the major retail districts of Greater Portland. According to the New England Commercial Property Exchange database, as of mid-October 2016, there were a total of 40 retail listings for 1,000 – 3,000 s/f in Port- land and South Portland combined. These cities includes Portland’s Old Port and the Maine Mall district. The same database indicated that there were a combined total of thirteen retail units ranging from 5,000 – 10,000 s/f and four 15,000 – 200,0000 s/f retail boxes available in total for Portland and South Portland.

Industrial

Greater Portland’s industrial mar- ket is seeing increased price points, low inventory, and tenant/buyer com- petition. In part, this is due to high de- mand from marijuana cultivators and breweries that have been expanding into the marketplace. “Over the last six years, industrial lease rates and sales prices have consistently trended and vacancy rates have dropped,” said Justin Lamontagne, partner at The Dunham Group out of Portland. “We anticipate a 3-4% vacancy rate for Greater Portland industrial space by year end 2016.”

Investment & Owner Occupant Sales

Southern Maine’s commercial sales for investment and owner occupant properties is arguable the hottest market. Owner occupants continue to take advantage of the historically low vacancy rates. Formerly tenants, these new owner occupants are often paying less on their mortgage than they were on their former lease rate. For Maine investors, the continuation of low interest rates combined with the state’s attractive capitalization rates has made investment properties scarce within the region. Capitalization rates for higher end office, retail, and industrial properties are currently trending between 8-9.5% in the prominent marketplace; 7-8% for premium multi-units and properties offering long-term leases from high credit tenants. Investments sales in secondary markets and higher risk properties are offering capitalization rates 9.5% to above 10%. These types of capitalization rates are not as prevalent in other states in New England making Maine a prime target for local and national investors.

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UMaine trustees launch initiative to create $150M graduate center

October 26, 2016 in News

Author: JAMES MCCARTHY
Publication: Mainebiz

UMaine trustees launch initiative to create $150M graduate center

The University of Maine System's trustees in a special meeting on Sunday unanimously approved the first phase of a $15 million fund-raising effort for an ambitious $150 million plan to create a new graduate center for business, law and public policy in Portland.

The resolution approved by the trustees doesn't fully commit the University of Maine System to the $150 million capital investment that would be required to fulfill the business plan for the proposed Maine Center, which calls for a new $93.6 million building and a $45 million endowment. At this point, it simply authorizes UMaine Chancellor James Page to seek additional funding from private foundations and other funding sources, including the Harold Alfond Foundation, which contributed more than $2 million to the planning process that led to the development of the business plan.

"The Maine Center plan is aspirational, exemplifying our 'One University' commitment to move our state forward with innovative programing and stronger engagement with Maine's business, legal and community leaders," Page said in a statement announcing the initiative.

Maine Center CEO Eliot Cutler, an unsuccessful Independent candidate in Maine's 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races and a founding partner of the environmental law firm Cutler & Stanfield LLP, led the 18-month assessment of UMaine's graduate programs that culminated in the graduate center's business plan. That effort included the establishment of a 100-member advisory board, discussions with faculty and more than 400 meetings in town halls, board rooms, law offices, judicial buildings and college campuses.

"The willingness of so many people inside and outside the university to engage with us shows how necessary everyone recognizes these changes and reforms are for the rebirth and growth of Maine's economy," Cutler said in a statement. "By breaking down the walls and silos in graduate programs that already are vanishing from the real world of work, the Maine Center will breed the kinds of collaborative, relationship-building, analytic and communications skills that are increasingly valued by Maine and national employers."

Why now?

The proposed Maine Center will bring under one roof in Portland the UMaine system's single, merged MBA program, the Maine Law School and the Muskie School of Public Service with its graduate programs in public health and public policy and management. It also calls for a conference center and an incubator/accelerator and would house the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy.

The business plan explicitly states that the initiative is in response to the needs of Maine businesses for workers with higher-level skills: "Increasing numbers of jobs in the new economy require a higher level of educational attainment, and the levels of bachelor, graduate and professional degree attainment in Maine are substantially below the national median."

"In this time of global connectivity and competition the professional education provided by our public universities must be irrevocably linked to the firms, businesses and organizations that are creating opportunity across our state and building our economy," Sam Collins, chairman of the UMaine System board of trustees, said in a statement.

The business plan also seeks to turn around recent trends of declining enrollments among all the graduate programs in the UMaine System, in part due to increased in-state competition: "The growth rates for MBA degrees conferred by Husson University, Thomas College and the UMaine System institutions for the period 2002 to 2014 illustrate a considerable loss of market share for the University of Maine and University of Southern Maine," the business plan states.

Next steps

Stage 1 of the plan will begin in January 2017 and will carry a timeline of two to three years to meet fund-raising milestones. It also calls for the UMaine and USM MBA programs to be integrated by the fall of 2017; the establishment of the Maine Center Ventures; and development of new programs designed to meet the business plan's objectives. The UMaine universities will also continue to support the business, public policy and legal professional graduate programs at current funding levels of approximately $3.2 million annually.

Once Stage 1 benchmarks have been met, Stage 2 envisions consulting with foundation partners, Maine's professional community, the universities and the UMaine board to make sure the financial support and essential programs are in place to proceed with building a new $93.6 million Maine Center facility in Portland.

If all goes according to the business plan's timetable, the Maine Center building would open in 2021. It is expected to achieve a 600-student enrollment in its graduate programs by 2024.

"The center will host a score of executive education and certificate programs and will be financially self-supporting," the business plan states. "By the middle of the following decade [i.e. 2035], the $150 million capital investment in the center will be returning billions of dollars in direct and indirect benefits to Maine communities."


MRRA welcomes public to picnic

August 29, 2016 in News

Author: DOUGLAS MCINTIRE
Publication: The Times Record

BRUNSWICK

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority held its annual open house and picnic Wednesday night, providing the public a chance to talk with MRRA officials and get to know a little more about the base redevelopment.

The event drew members of the public and tenants as well as town officials, offering them a chance to speak with MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque and take a guided tour via Maine Bus Rentals.

The event was catered by New Beet Market, with owner Nate Wildes touting the many Maine-made and in-house creations.

Maine-made red hot dogs, Maine-grown corn on the cob, black bean burgers and pulled pork sandwiches with Maine-grown pork were served along with an array of salad sides. Even the buns used were locally baked, according to Wildes.

“The exciting thing about (Brunswick) Landing is everybody’s growing together,” Wildes said. “The Landing is doing a good job of working together and grow.”

 MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque talks with Town Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman at the annual MRRA open house and picnic.  DOUGLAS MCINTIRE / THE TIMES RECORD MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque talks with Town Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman at the annual MRRA open house and picnic. DOUGLAS MCINTIRE / THE TIMES RECORD Wildes said Brunswick Landing has become a very “complementary community” where everyone is working in each other’s best interest by branding and marketing the area as “a cool place to come.”

“Every day we get people in the restaurant who say, ‘I haven’t been out here since it was an active Navy base — I can’t believe how much has changed,’” Wildes said.

 

Douglas Cardente is one of the developers at Brunswick Landing. He purchased the American Bureau of Shipping building on Leavitt Drive. The property was once part of the Navy Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape school program.

“It’s a new building and I think one of the best ones out here,” Cardente said.

Besides ABS, Cardente said Harpswell Coastal Academy is moving in from its former location in the same building as Seeds of Independence. Cardente said that since the building was formerly used for educational purposes, it’s a natural fit for HCA.

Cardente said that with his purchase, there came an additional 12 acres that he may develop down the road into office buildings.

“(Levesque) has been a great promoter of this area and even tonight, he just wants to make sure that every base is covered in terms of letting everyone know what’s here and what’s available,” Cardente said.

Levesque said the event has drawn in mostly members of the community, curious about MRRA and how the former base is being developed.

“It’s really just to open the place up to the community and let them know what’s going on — a lot of people don’t know,” Levesque said.

To get word out, Levesque said they sent out mass mailings and put notices in the newspapers.

Levesque said it gives MRRA a chance to dispel misinformation that people might hear. One story Levesque tries to set straight is the misconception that the town isn’t receiving property taxes from the former base. The home page of the MRRA website notes more than $2.5 million in taxes paid to the town.

Brunswick Downtown Association Director Deb King was also present at the event. King said that besides MRRA, there are many businesses at Brunswick Landing who are part of the association.

“We are really excited about the growth out here,” King said.

King said the BDA has a definite interest outside of the immediate downtown area and will continue reaching out to tenants as they arrive, such as Wayfair.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the efforts of MRRA and the accomplishments — as everyone knows, they’ve far surpassed the expectations at an award winning pace,” King said — something that bodes well for the entire community.

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