Sunday, March 9, 2014
The Bayside neighborhood is in the news this week as city planners get ready to vote on final approvals for an ambitious redevelopment on long-vacant railyards along Somerset Street. Randy Billings had a good overview of the neighborhood's history and past redevelopment efforts on the cover of Monday's paper, and along with it we ran an old aerial photo of the neighborhood from around 1960, part of our new "Flashback" feature in which we share old negatives from the newspaper's archives at the Portland Public Library. The library has actually made prints of more than a dozen of these aerial photos and they're on view on the walls of the second floor reading room.
That photo came from a large-format negative, which gives the picture an amazing level of detail — as you zoom in on the interactive version here, you can make out individual business names on buildings throughout the neighborhood. And a look at those businesses from 50 years ago offers some intriguing insights about the past half-century's economic changes.
Here are some of the things I noticed:
Today, only one of those scrapyards is still in business: E. Perry Iron and Metal on Lancaster Street. The waste paper warehouse building is still there on the corner of Marginal Way and Preble Street, but now it's occupied by Trader Joe's.
The buildings of another scrapyard visible in the distance have been re-occupied by Bunker Brewing and Tandem Coffee Roasters. Century Tire is still in the same spot, but most of the junkyard has been replaced by a U.S. Postal Service warehouse. And even though we've gained some new empty lots since 1960, developers have constructed more than a dozen multi-story apartment and office buildings along Marginal Way and in the blocks behind City Hall since the year 2000.
The state as a whole has transitioned from a manufacturing economy to one that's more oriented towards services like health care and retail, and what's happened in Bayside reflects those changes in a single neighborhood. The Bayside of 1960 was mostly dedicated to relatively low-value manufacturing industries. Judging by the overgrown waterfront lots it seems safe to assume that land values were low. The Bayside of 2013, on the other hand, is more valuable and more diversified, with retail services, medical offices, breweries, coffee roasters and restaurants mixed in among a few surviving vestiges of the industrial past.
Commercial Confidential tracks Maine's business leaders and economic indicators.
I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.
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