Portland still the hot-spot of development in southern Maine

BY Peter Van Allen


Driving around may not seem like a productive use of time in most industries, but in the news business, it's a first-hand way to see construction that's underway, businesses that have opened or closed and get a sense of the issues in a particular city or town.

For the southern Maine focus in this issue, I spent a day driving around, starting at Kate's Bakery and Café on Badger's Island in Kittery, then working my way north. For an entire day, I poked around York, Ogunquit, Wells, the Kennebunks, Biddeford, Saco, Scarborough, South Portland and finally Portland. My sense was that as much as we talk about southern Maine's strong economy and the development going on in “southern Maine” (York and Cumberland counties), the bulk of new development is centered in Portland and surrounding municipalities. That's where you see construction cranes, that's where you see year-round businesses and where, on a gray day in January, I saw the most people and activity.

I offer all of this with the caveat that many people come to Maine to get away from all that. But we're a business publication and I'm talking about the economic lifeline.

And other aspects of the rapid development have been the worker shortage, lack of affordable housing and issues around congestion and parking.

For the southern Maine focus, Senior Writer Renee Cordes tackled the issue of affordable housing and where things stand. In the Portland market, particularly, getting into an affordable apartment often means months or years on a waiting list. She spoke with a woman who went through the process and she spoke with some developers who are trying to do something about it. Check out her cover story, "Homing in on affordable housing: Demand continues to outpace construction."

Portland is in the midst of a hotel building boom, with more than 600 guest rooms coming into the market in the coming two years. Senior Writer Laurie Schreiber talked to the developers and asked them about concerns about overdevelopment and how they're positioning the hotels. 

The redevelopment of Scarborough Downs presented an unusual opportunity to plan a new community on 500 acres in the middle of a densely populated area. The Downs, as it will be known, will include a town center, housing, open space and, now, an innovation park for a range of business uses. Check out what's under development in the communities south of Portland in "Southern Maine roundup: Scarborough real estate heats up, Sanford upgrades broadband network."