I received an inquiry from a reader a week or so ago who asked why she could never book Southwest flights from Portland for the steeply reduced fares she’d seen advertised on TV.

The discount carrier had been running an ad campaign touting fares for as low as $69 one-way to select destinations. When this reader tried to book a Southwest flight to Baltimore, the cheapest fare she could get from Portland International Jetport was $150 while Boston’s Logan was offerings fares of $69.

Zachary Sundquist, assistant airport director at the jetport, said the answer lies in a simple case of supply and demand. Carriers offer sale prices on routes that typically aren’t full. Since the local flights are near capacity, there’s no incentive for Southwest or another airline to offer discounts.

“PWM is a very strong performer for our air carrier partners and we often find that there are not the available number of seats to sell at discount prices,” said Sundquist in an email response to my query. “So we aren’t necessarily ‘left out’ (of the sale promotions) as much as the seats they would discount have already been sold at full fare.”

Business has been good at the jetport. Sundquist said in 2015, 82.85 percent of all available seats on flights out of PWM had been sold. The industry average was 82.66 percent for the same time period, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

PERSPECTIVE AND THE PAST

Leave it to a professor to lend a little historical context to Portland’s existing housing crunch.

Richard Barringer, research professor at the Muskie School of Public Service and a longtime Maine politician, was one of the panelists speculating about the future of the city’s housing stock at the last Portland Chamber Eggs & Issues breakfast.

Barringer reminded people that this isn’t the first time the city has dealt with a housing squeeze. In the 1840s, Portland’s population started to grow exponentially as rail to Montreal opened up new trade routes and labor pools, and Irish immigrants arrived to escape famine in their homeland. It happened again at the end of the Civil War, and after the Great Fire of 1866, when thousands of people were living in former Civil War tents throughout the city. The advent of the electric tramway in the city at the start of the 20th century helped move recent immigrants from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe throughout expanding Portland neighborhoods.

Available housing was transformed again in the 1960s when federal urban housing projects sprang up around the country to create affordable housing. Now Portland is on the verge of something historic again.

“Cities are emerging as economic drivers across the entire advanced, industrial world … and the result is a terrific demand for housing,” he said. “A successful city is a real magnet for people,” and that in turn produces great demand for housing.

Barringer wasn’t content to simply deliver a little historical context to the audience of more than 400. He seized the opportunity to call for more involvement from the business community to help the city confront and solve its housing problems. He cited his own recent involvement in the India Street neighborhood group that advocated for form-based development.

“The business voice was generally lacking from those conversations, and we need that voice, especially as the city approaches zoning,” he said, adding that city’s density standards need to be changed to accommodate additional urban housing.

He also took to task rampant NIMBYism, saying last November’s defeat of a referendum to protect scenic views for some residents was a good thing.

“There is no place in this country where NIMBYism is more aggressive and I feel, really, obstructive in the kinds of changes we need to see made,” he said.

GOT BRICK?

There was some kind of masonry karma in the air at DaVinci’s Eatery in Lewiston’s Bates Mill last week.

That was the location of a Maine Real Estate and Development Association workshop on preserving historic masonry. A group of experts was on hand to talk about how to preserve stone and brickwork, especially in historically significant buildings that qualify for federal preservation tax credits.

The majority of the historic textile mill, built in the 1850s, has been preserved and renovated for new use as offices, housing and food services such a DaVinci’s and Baxter Brewing Co.

One of the workshop attendees asked about insulation and R values in brick buildings.

Steve Pedersen, an architect with WBRC, slapped an exterior wall of the restaurant. The brick wall is 2 feet thick with no insulation.

Despite outside temperatures of 23 degrees that morning, the wall was warm to the touch.

“Brick has good R value,” said Pedersen. But if you’re not lucky enough to work on a building with 2-foot thick walls, “use a lot of spray foam, the price has really come down in the past five to 10 years.”

The group also advised that owners of brick buildings should never seal exterior walls. Despite a marketing campaign in the 1980s by chemical companies like Dow and DuPont, sealers only serve to trap moisture in bricks. In Maine, temperature swings will cause that trapped moisture to expand and contract. The consequence?

Sand.

Pedersen showed several slides of projects where a brick was removed from a wall that had been sealed and behind it was a pile of sand – a remnant of water-damaged masonry.

Business Editor Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or:

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