May 13, 2013

East Bayside businesses pursue links to neighbors

They seek city approval to sell goods and hold more events in the fast-developing area.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Over the last two years, East Bayside has experienced a business boomlet from people roasting their own coffee, brewing their own beer, baking their own bread and making their own Popsicles. 

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Heather Sanborn of Rising Tide Brewery says the company is interested in hosting musical events, poetry readings and art shows at its East Bayside warehouse.

John Patriquin/StaffPhotographer

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Eli Cayer, founder of Urban Farm Fermentory, shows the space where a community kitchen could be added in the building he leases at 200 Anderson St. in East Bayside, if the Planning Board agrees to loosen restrictions there.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Now, two local businesses are spearheading an effort to loosen restrictions in the industrial zone so they can host special events, farmers markets, craft markets, artist studios and a community kitchen for food truck operators.

The goal of the changes is to give small-scale producers setting up shop in East Bayside an outlet to connect directly to consumers, said Eli Cayer, owner of the Urban Farm Fermentory, who has been helping to draft the changes.

"If we can fund events around it periodically, that makes it even sexier," Cayer said of his business.

The Planning Board will hold a workshop on the proposed changes Tuesday. The proposal would allow the sale of handcrafted and limited-production products for up to 28 hours a week at any one location, as long as the retail operation occupies no more than 35 percent of the floor space, according to a staff memo to the Planning Board.

Studios for artists and craftspeople would be a permitted use in industrial zones, and special events would be capped at 16 hours a week.

East Bayside is bounded by Congress Street, Franklin Street, Washington Avenue and Marginal Way.

Cayer started his experimental fermentory in a single bay of a warehouse on Anderson Street in 2010, making ciders, mead and a fermented tea called Kombucha. Since then, he has leased three additional bays in which to expand his business and create a food hub. Other tenants include Bomb Diggity Bakery and Pure Pops.

Cayer said he would like to add a community kitchen to the warehouse that could be rented hourly by food truck operators, who need a commercial kitchen to get an operators license with the city. At night, the space could be used for classes, he said.

Rising Tide Brewery, meanwhile, is looking to host musical events, as well as poetry readings and art shows, said Heather Sanborn, co-owner and business development director.

Sanborn said the brewery moved into a 5,500-square-foot warehouse space in East Bayside last year. In addition to being an ideal space for a brewery, Sanborn said, its acoustics would be ideal for occasional live performances.

"We have a great space," Sanborn said. "It sounds great with music or (the) spoken word."

The focus of the business, however, would still be making beer, she said.

Rising Tide began as a one-person operation in Riverside in 2010, and brewed about 149 barrels, or more than 4,600 gallons, she said.

The brewery now employs seven people and is on pace to produce 1,200 barrels this year, or 32,000 gallons, she said. The beer is carried by retailers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

"East Bayside is an incredibly vibrant neighborhood that is developing right before our eyes," Sanborn said. "It's a community with great potential."

Several years ago, East Bayside was the subject of a neighborhood-wide study by the American Institute of Architects.

According to a report issued in 2010, East Bayside was a seaport in the 1820s, serviced via the Back Cove shipping channel and the Union Railroad. East Bayside grew into its current 130-acre size when the city filled a portion of Back Cove with debris from the fire of 1866, which wiped out most of the peninsula.

The neighborhood continues to be a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses and still draws immigrant families. The architects institute called it "Maine's most diverse neighborhood," and The Boston Globe featured the neighborhood in its travel section May 7.

The diversity of both the people and land uses is drawing young families and entrepreneurs alike, said Melissa Hoskins, president of the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization.

"It's a vortex of goodness," Hoskins said.

The last two years have brought a business boomlet to the area, Hoskins said. Businesses that have opened in East Bayside within the last two years include Bomb Diggity Baker, Pure Pops, Bunker Brewing Co., Tandem Coffee Roasters and Maine Craft Distilling.

"There are lots of new things on the horizon," Hoskins said. For example, people are exploring the creation of a tool library, where people could borrow tools, and Cayer said he is looking to build a greenhouse.

Expanding the types of uses and allowing special events are great ways to introduce people to the neighborhood and strengthen the sense of community, Hoskins said.

"It really has a small-town kind of feeling," she said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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