The owner of Bayside Bowl, state Sen. Justin Alfond, wants to buy a piece of city-owned land in the gritty Bayside neighborhood to expand the bowling alley and add a facility with squash courts.

The Portland City Council will decide whether to sell the land, which has long been home to the city’s public works sand and salt shed.

The council’s Housing and Community Development Committee discussed the proposed sale during a public meeting Wednesday night and unanimously recommended that the council accept Alfond’s offer at a future meeting.

If the deal is approved by the full council, Alfond would pay $340,018 for the small lot and would create a new home for Portland Community Squash, a nonprofit that organizes squash leagues for youths and adults. Alfond said he would like to break ground in April, but the agreement gives the city until June 15 to vacate the property.

Alfond, a Democrat from Portland, said he began asking city officials several months ago about the one-third-acre property at 71 Hanover St. The property sits directly behind the bowling alley and is used by the city’s Department of Public Services for storing sand and salt. City officials have said they plan to move all of the department’s operations off the peninsula in phases and then sell its existing properties for private development.

Alfond said the Bayside Bowl expansion is needed because the bowling alley has been getting more customer traffic than it can handle.

“We have a huge demand for our lanes,” he said, noting that wait times can exceed two hours at peak times.

There was no public opposition to the sale at Wednesday’s public hearing, but one resident, Steven Scharf of High Street, questioned why Alfond’s bid came in just $18 over the city’s minimum purchase price, which was disclosed in bid documents.

“I am very glad that we got the asking price, but I am not going to comment on the $18 difference,” said Kevin Donoghue, chairman of the Housing and Community Development Committee.

Donoghue said “you have to start somewhere” – a reference to the revitalization of the Bayside neighborhood.


The $2.4 million expansion proposed by Alfond’s company, BOPO LLC, would add eight 10-pin bowling lanes, for a total of 20 lanes. It also would expand the dining and lounge area and add a rooftop lounge, event space, a DJ platform and back-room facilities such as food and keg coolers and a dry storage area.

The project also would create a permanent home above the bowling alley for Portland Community Squash, which currently meets at the Portland YMCA. The new facility would have eight singles courts, one doubles court, a small gym, classrooms, and both adult and child locker rooms.

BOPO would own the 45-foot-tall, three-story facility and the squash organization would be its only tenant, Alfond said.

The decision to partner with Portland Community Squash came out of discussions with its president, Barrett Takesian, a former Bowdoin College squash captain whose stated goal is to make the racquet sport, often associated with the country club set, accessible to people of all ages and income levels.

“They were saying, ‘We really would like to find a home for our 200-plus men and women squash players,’ ” Alfond said.


The bowling alley expansion and squash courts would be in line with the city’s long-term vision to transform the industrial Bayside area into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood where local residents and businesses can thrive, said Portland Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell.

Mitchell told councilors that Alfond would have 18 months to complete the expansion. “We don’t want to see the property sit idle for any reason,” Mitchell said.

Another Bayside redevelopment project still awaiting city approval is the $75 million “midtown” project, which would add 440 market-rate apartments on 3.25 acres of city-owned land that used to be the site of industrial scrap yards. Also, a former auto repair shop is scheduled to become a Chipotle restaurant and shopping center.

Many of the city’s social services for its poorest residents remain in the neighborhood, and the site of the proposed squash courts is within a few blocks of the city’s primary soup kitchen and homeless shelter.

Mitchell said the city decided to issue a request for proposals to redevelop the 71 Hanover parcel after Alfond expressed interest in buying it. The request for proposals was discussed in several public meetings in 2014 and then posted on the city’s website in early December, he said. Alfond’s firm was the only one that responded.

The proposed sale price is $340,018, which Mitchell said is based on the value of other, recent real estate transactions in the Bayside area.

“We determined that this real estate had a value of $1 million an acre,” he said. The property’s assessed value for tax purposes is $135,500, which includes two salt and sand sheds built on the site, according to the Portland Maine Assessor’s Office online database.


City officials have been in discussions for more than a year about selling three adjacent parcels, including 71 Hanover St., that are currently being used by the Department of Public Services. The other two parcels, which comprise about 0.7 acres on lots at 65 Hanover and 52 Alder streets, are expected to be sold next.

Mitchell said the city is in the final stages of approving a request for proposals that would require the development of affordable housing on those plots. The 71 Hanover property, which is separated from the other two by Lancaster Street, was deemed more suitable for commercial development because of its relatively small size, he said.

The proposed land sales are part of an ongoing effort to shift commercial land use in the Bayside area away from industrial and toward lower-impact uses such as multifamily housing, retail and recreation.

Mitchell noted that the properties are being sold “as is” with the understanding that buyers will have to pay the cost of any required environmental cleanup.


Even if the council approves Alfond’s proposal, the deal would be contingent upon the city finding a new location for its sand and salt sheds, Mitchell said. The proposed sale agreement would give Portland until mid-June to relocate, and then BOPO would have 18 months to develop the site or face the possibility of Portland buying it back.

A timeline for the Bayside Bowl expansion included in Alfond’s proposal estimates the project would be completed by November if it receives council approval by mid-March.

Alfond said that although the five-year-old Bayside Bowl is by no means the first business to thrive in Bayside, its success shows that the city’s vision for the area can work.

“We’ve just been thrilled to be part of this revitalization of the Bayside neighborhood,” he said.

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