No, Virginia, IKEA is not planning to open one of its furniture mega-warehouse showrooms on outer Congress Street in Portland.

A mysterious sign first spotted on Christmas Day at the site of the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church read, “Future home of IKEA … Opening 2016.” The sign has since been taken down, but not before several passers-by posted photos of it on social media and wondered if the celebrated Swedish home furnishings retailer really was planning to expand into Portland in the coming year.

Alas, it is not so.

“We currently do not have plans to open a store in Portland, Maine,” said IKEA Public Affairs Manager Joseph Roth. “If we were opening in 2016, construction would have needed to begin already.”

Roth said the retailer periodically evaluates various metropolitan areas to determine whether the population has grown large enough to support an IKEA store. Generally, the requirement is about 2 million people within a reasonable driving distance, he said. The company has not looked actively at Maine, and it is not considered a candidate for expansion, Roth said.

A representative of the outer Congress site’s actual developer, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, said he did not know who put up the sign, or why.


The site is the future home of the Alfred Osher Jewish Community Alliance Campus, scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017, said Steve Brinn, alliance board member, past president and co-chair of the committee overseeing the project’s construction.

Brinn noted that the site is only 2.5 acres, a fraction of the size that would be needed to develop an IKEA.

According to Roth, IKEA stores are developed on sites ranging from 25 to 35 acres. The stores vary in size between 250,000 and 400,000 square feet, he said. By comparison, the alliance project is a modest 19,000 square feet. That’s too small for an IKEA, but large enough to house the new Morris A. and Bertha Levine Portland Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Services, the Florence Melton Mini-School, the JCA Pre-School and the Jewish Federation, as well as young adult social group NextDor, PJ Library and myriad programs and services, Brinn said. The campus project already has been approved by the city, he said.

“We’re planning to break ground by May or June at the latest,” Brinn said.

Portland Deputy City Manager Anita LaChance said the city had not received any calls about the IKEA sign. She said the retailer never has approached city officials about the possibility of opening a store.

Regarding the unknown person who put up the sign, LaChance said, “Somebody’s got a lot of time on their hands.”


Westbrook resident Jenna Isaacson Pfueller said she and her husband saw the sign as they were driving past and were skeptical but still hoped it was legitimate.

“My husband and I were giving each other confused glances – like – did you just see that too? It looked so official!” she said via email.

IKEA has been experimenting with smaller store sizes in Europe, but it has yet to carry over that strategy to the U.S. Pfueller said she misses the IKEA store near her previous home in the Washington, D.C., area and was disappointed to learn that the Portland sign was a fake.

“May whoever did this be pelted with a thousand Swedish meatballs,” she said.


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