August 15, 2013

Thompson's Point eyed for circus conservatory

The Circus Conservatory of America, a degree-granting college, would be the first new tenant for the $100 million Portland development since the project was rolled out in 2011.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Thompson’s Point in Portland could be redeveloped into the new home of the Circus Conservatory of America, which is seeking to offer an accredited degree program.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Peter Nielsen is part of a team planning on opening a circus college on Thompson's Point in Portland.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Thompson said he was impressed with the group's business plan and he is convinced there is a need for this type of institution, not only in the U.S., but in Portland.

Nielsen, meanwhile, said the nonprofit circus conservatory chose Portland over other U.S. cities, such as Seattle and San Fransciso.

"We felt Maine would know what to do with this," he said.

The $105 million Forefront at Thompson's Point project -- including a sports arena, hotel, restaurant, sports medicine lab and offices -- was introduced with great fanfare in 2011 with the promise of transforming the 28-acre former industrial site in Libbytown near Interstate 295 into regional destination.

That year, the City Council agreed to rebate up to $32 million in property taxes to the developers over the next 30 years.

Developers have yet to break ground on the project, which continues to evolve since it was approved by the Planning Board in June 2012.

Forefront Partners recently changed their development plan to preserve the brick building and build a 175,000-square-foot office building in the first phase. The office was building was being built for a large tenant, largely believed to be South Portland based credit card processor WEX.

WEX officials recently announced it was shelving plans for an expansion or relocation for two years and that the company would likely stay in South Portland.

Thompson has since said he has been working with two potential tenants to fill the Phase I office space.

Meanwhile, developers are expected to submit revised plans that would locate a planned event center near the train tracks on land currently occupied by Suburban Propane. Thompson has said the company has agreed to relocate.

The city has been in negotiations to accommodate the company on a city-owned parcel on Riverside Street. However, no decision has been made.

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

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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