PORTLAND – J.B. Brown & Sons is asking the city to rezone about 10 acres of land that the developer is buying on West Commercial Street, which could be the site for an office building.

The property is between the Star Match building, which J.B. Brown has owned since 1974, and the on-ramp to the Veterans Memorial Bridge/Fore River Parkway interchange.

J.B. Brown currently has an option on the property, but expects to close on the sale within a few weeks, said Vincent Veroneau, the company’s president and CEO. He declined to disclose the price.

Bill Needelman, Portland’s senior planner, said the Portland Planning Board will review the proposed rezoning at a workshop starting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. He said formal action would likely take place in December or January, after which the rezoning proposal would go to the City Council.

As recently as June, Portland’s commercial real estate vacancy rate was above 12 percent, and the market has remained soft since the recession.

Jo Coyne, who has lived in Portland’s West End for nearly 15 years, said she is unfamiliar with the development proposal, but she is more concerned with the scheduled date for the Planning Board workshop than the proposal itself. She also thinks the meeting time is inconvenient for people who may want to raise issues but work during the day.


“My concern is the Planning Board hearing is set for Election Day. That rules me out (from attending),” said Coyne, who will be working all day as a city election clerk. “I think everyone in my neighborhood would be interested in hearing about their proposal. That land has just sat there for years, unchanged. This is something people need to know about.”

Most of the property is currently zoned for waterfront business use, even though the property that fronts on the Fore River is across the street. J.B. Brown wants most of the property rezoned for business use, although a small section up the hill on Danforth Street would still be zoned residential.

Veroneau said the company envisions a three-story, 67,000-square-foot office building on the site, although the exact size and design depends on landing a lead tenant for the space. That would make it larger than the Star Match building, which is about 40,000 square feet, he said.

Veroneau said the company has heard from several prospective tenants, but serious marketing of the property won’t begin until after the rezoning decision early next year.

Veroneau said that as he was reviewing the property records, he determined that J.B. Brown had once owned a portion of the property, but sold it in 1872.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:



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