Developers seeking a controversial zone change on Portland’s eastern waterfront have released a study touting the project’s economic impact, a move opponents of the proposal say is designed to sell the plan five days before the City Council is to vote on it.

Redeveloping the nearly 10-acre Portland Co. site would generate more than $200 million in one-time economic activity for the city, according to an economic impact analysis released Thursday that was based on nearby existing development rather than specifics of the developer’s proposal. CPB2 LLC, the development team headed by local businessmen Jim Brady and Casey Prentice, hasn’t released details of its plan other than to say it would have a mix of commercial and residential uses.

But Chuck Lawton, the economist who conducted the study, said that residents and city councilors could get a good sense about the potential economic impact of any redevelopment simply by looking at a similar-sized portion of the Old Port and applying those uses to the site. Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, a research and planning consulting company with offices in Portland.

“To me, this (economic impact study) has all of the validity that a citizen needs to think about alternatives,” Lawton said.

Brady said he decided to commission the economic study early in the process because the zoning of the property will determine what can be built there. The final development plan for 58 Fore St. also will be driven by market forces.

“This is a project that has the opportunity to help change the face of Portland in a really positive way, both from an economic standpoint, but also for quality of life,” he said.


A public hearing is scheduled for Monday about the rezoning proposal, which would allow the developer to build taller buildings and increase the number of allowed uses, including residential.

The Portland Co. project has drawn opposition from some Munjoy Hill residents, who have organized against the project because they fear it will rob them of water views and restrict access to the waterfront.

Anne Rand, a former state senator and spokesperson for the Soul of Portland opposition group, said the developers made a good move releasing the study early, but it doesn’t change the group’s desire for the council to preserve the water views along Fore Street, protect the waterfront trail and prevent the Old Port from encroaching into the neighborhood. “It’s a political move for sure,” Rand said. “They’re trying to get public support for their venture.”

City staff said at a City Council workshop on Monday that rezoning the area was always envisioned as part of the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, adopted in 2004. Neighboring parcels already have been rezoned, but the former owner of the Portland Co. complex never asked for the zoning because he lacked a development plan, they said.

CPB2 bought the property for $14.1 million in 2013 and has agreed to limit building heights along Fore Street to 35 feet, which is lower than some existing houses in the area. But area residents believe that is too tall.

Lawton said he came up with a series of economic projections for the site by looking at a similarly sized portion of the Old Port – bordered by Commercial, Exchange, Middle and Pearl streets – and applied those uses to the Portland Co. site.


Lawton projected that a similar development on the Eastern Waterfront would add $76 million dollars to the city’s tax base, resulting $1.5 million a year in property taxes and fees. Enough housing could be built for nearly 400 people, and annual operating sales of businesses could generate $38 million in sales and $16.5 million in wages for 325 full time workers. During construction, he said $215 million in direct and indirect spend would be generated by the 1,400 jobs and $68 million in wages.

Rand said she was encouraged by the economic projections, but the group’s demands remain unchanged.

“We really think the Old Port is really fabulous right where it is and we’d rather that large segments of it don’t get moved up into the neighborhood.”

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

Twitter: @randybillings

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