REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Developers signal interest in multigenerational project

Representatives of at least a dozen development and design firms have expressed interest in a novel proposal in Cumberland to build a compact, multigenerational neighborhood on public land. Developers gathered for an informational meeting Thursday to discuss the project, which town officials believe could become a model for other communities in Maine. Cumberland wants to partner with a real estate developer to build an entire neighborhood of up to 100 homes for people of various ages and income levels. Town officials recently issued a request for qualifications, a means of gauging developer interest in the proposed project. The neighborhood would be developed on 31.7 acres of town-owned property southwest of Tuttle Road near Cumberland Town Hall. Read the story.

Residents challenge zoning change for waterfront warehouse

A group of West End residents has filed paperwork to nullify a zoning change and block a proposed cold-storage warehouse on Portland’s western waterfront. The petition, signed by about 125 people who live near the industrial port district, would take effect only if a referendum giving citizens more say over zoning changes passes in November. The petition drive was organized by residents who are upset with new height limits that allow some buildings in the waterfront port development zone to be 75 feet tall. Organizers submitted their petition hours before the City Council overwhelmingly approved amendments to the waterfront port development zone Wednesday. A citizen referendum on the November ballot would block rezoning efforts if 25 percent of registered voters living within 500 feet of a proposed development site sign a petition objecting to the change. Developers could override a petition if they collect signatures from a majority of residents living within 1,000 feet of the site. If successful, the referendum would be retroactive to May 15, 2017, which means residents could overturn approved zoning changes, such as the amendments to the waterfront port development zone. Read the story.

City passes incentives to help develop affordable housing

Portland city councilors voted Wednesday to approve zoning incentives for low- and middle-income housing developments in certain areas of the city. The incentives will especially help developers of nonprofit housing compete for funding from the Maine State Housing Authority by reducing per unit construction costs – a major issue in Maine’s largest city. The zoning amendments relax density and height restrictions, and setback rules, for low-income and affordable housing developments on the peninsula and along some traffic corridors such as Forest Avenue. Councilors suggested that similar changes could be made along Washington and Brighton avenues, among others. Read the story.

ENERGY

CMP transmission project raises concerns over wind power

Despite assurances from Central Maine Power Co., several people at a meeting Thursday on the company’s proposal to build a 145-mile transmission corridor through western Maine said they oppose the project because they believe it will serve industrial wind farms. CMP held the public information session at Upper Kennebec Valley High School in Bingham to lay out plans for the power lines, which the company says would be used to bring hydro power from Canada to Massachusetts. CMP submitted a plan in August to build a 145-mile, high-voltage transmission line through parts of Maine to send hydro-electric power from Quebec to Massachusetts. For the project to become a reality, Massachusetts and its utilities would have to award a bid to CMP and its partners as part of the competition to provide the Bay State with massive amounts of renewably-sourced electricity. Read the story.

Company intends to file permits for solar farm

The group developing plans for what would be one of the state’s larger solar farms hopes to submit environmental permit applications this fall. The proposed 20-megawatt array would be on 120 acres of privately owned land on U.S. Route 201, about a mile south of the Sappi plant in Skowhegan, said the project manager for NextEra Energy Resources, the company developing the array. The array would provide energy for about 7,000 homes, with the state of Connecticut purchasing the power. An estimated $30 million project, it would be built, owned and operated by subsidiaries of NextEra, which is also working on a project of similar size in Clinton. Read the story.

LePage appoints new energy czar

Steven McGrath of Cape Elizabeth, a former executive in Maine’s oil industry, has been chosen by Gov. Paul LePage to head the Governor’s Energy Office. McGrath is the past chief financial officer of Downeast Energy Corp., where he was also responsible for oil and propane supply and hedging. For the past four years, he served as the CEO of Greystone Advisors, a financial and management advisory company. McGrath replaces Patrick Woodcock, who left last November to serve in the Massachusetts energy office. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Shipyard gets money for new hoist

Portland Ship Yard, a sister company of Portland Yacht Services, will receive a federal grant of nearly $1 million to replace an aging boat hoist at its Commercial Street boat yard. The $990,500 Small Shipyard Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation was announced Wednesday. The yard’s aging boat lift has hindered its ability to service many commercial boats. The yard has had 225 days of down time since 2014 because lift problems and safety concerns have made the lift “practically unusable” for all but the lightest vessels, according to a release announcing the grant. The award will pay for a new 330-ton mobile boat hoist for the yard. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

DEP issues preliminary permit approval for new York toll plaza

A state environmental agency has issued preliminary approval for a permit to relocate the Maine Turnpike’s York toll plaza in what could be the final step in a long and contentious process. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection approval would allow cash collection lanes at the new toll plaza, which several York residents and town officials have said they oppose for safety and environmental reasons. The DEP issued a draft decision Tuesday regarding the Maine Turnpike Authority’s proposal to build a new toll plaza in York that would include both cash collection lanes and high-speed “open road tolling” lanes for E-ZPass holders. A public comment period on the draft decision ends at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the final decision will be issued by Sept. 15. Read the story.

Gas prices might peak this week

Average gasoline prices in Maine are up 32 cents over the previous week, rising another 3 cents a gallon on Tuesday. Prices are rising amid uncertainty over when the post-Hurricane Harvey run-up will hit a high point. The average price for regular grade was at $2.71 Tuesday, according to surveys from both AAA and GasBuddy, roughly 32 cents a gallon higher than a week ago. Prices are rising in Maine and New England faster than the national average, according to GasBuddy, because supplies normally earmarked for the Northeast have been diverted south to ease severe shortages there. One petroleum analyst said Maine might see prices rise another dime or so before they stabilize and start to drop this week. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Company wins grant to further research on heart attack drug

A regenerative medicine company in Bar Harbor received a $1.5 million grant to further its research on treating patients who have suffered acute heart attacks. Novo Biosciences, a spinoff of the MDI Biological Laboratory, received the two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will allow the company to move ahead with studies on the effectiveness of a potential regenerative medicine therapy, called MSI-1436, in pigs. The treatment has already proved effective in regenerating damaged heart tissue in mice and zebrafish, according to a release from Novo Biosciences announcing the grant. Read the story.

Maine Med wins grant to study metabolic disease

The Maine Medical Center Research Institute has been awarded a five-year, $11 million Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant by the National Institutes of Health. The funding will be used to establish a research center to model the basis of human metabolic diseases, the institute said Wednesday in a release. The program includes partnerships among Maine Med, University of Maine, University of New England and Brown University. The award comes just seven weeks after the NIH announced a separate, $20 million award to Maine Med and two partnering institutions to establish the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network. The two new programs at Maine Med will expand the research institute’s capacity to translate basic laboratory research discoveries into clinical care for patients, according to the release. Read the story.