The development boom in Portland shows no signs of slowing, even as construction costs are climbing and as rents appear to be rising more slowly after years of rapid increases.

Two new housing proposals are being planned in the Bayside neighborhood – a 54-unit apartment building on Chestnut Street and a modern five-unit project on Washington Avenue with condominiums that will be offered for as much as $950,000.

The proposals come as a slew of new housing developments are changing city neighborhoods, especially in and around the downtown. For years, the number of housing units in the city remained relatively stable because there was virtually no new construction. But as more people are discovering Portland’s vibrant arts and restaurant communities, demand for housing has overwhelmed the limited number of units and led to spikes in rents and, in some cases, evictions of low-income residents as landlords upgrade to take advantage of the hot market.

And for the first time in decades, the city has seen an explosion in market rate and luxury apartment buildings and condominiums.

Rental housing projects currently under construction include a 132-unit apartment building at 667 Congress St., a 53-unit apartment building at 89 Anderson St., and a 63-unit apartment building at York and High streets. The former Schlotterbeck & Foss building at 117 Preble St. also is being converted into 55 units of housing.

Meanwhile, more than 100 condos have been built in the India Street neighborhood and several smaller condo projects have been sprouting up on small lots on Munjoy Hill. This month, Saco developer Bernie Saulnier unveiled his plan to build a six-story building with about 34 condo units at 155 Sheridan St., which would alter a panoramic view of the city and Back Cove from the publicly owned Fort Sumner Park on North Street.


An analysis last year by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram found that the prices of apartments being offered for rent in the city had risen 40 percent over the past five years, while renter incomes had fallen during the same period. Even with the pace of rent increases slowing, Portland’s average rents are still hundreds of dollars a month above what is considered affordable for the average renter.

Members of the Southern Maine Landlord Association continue to report an increase in rents for 2016, but at a much slower rate than 2015, when rents increased by nearly 9 percent, according to the association’s president, Brit Vitalius, who also tracks the rental market for the Maine Real Estate and Development Association, an industry trade group of builders, tradesmen and real estate professionals.

Vitalius said in an email that this year’s increase is “less than half” of the 2015 increase and that one large landlord is “actually reducing rents on a handful of units in Portland and South Portland due to current market conditions.”

Although rising construction prices, competition for labor and a slowing growth in rents may discourage some new apartment projects, industry insiders said Wednesday there are no signs that the boom is about to go bust because millennials and baby boomers alike continue to be drawn to places like Portland where they can easily walk to work, restaurants, art galleries and concert venues.

“The underlying thing that is driving this market is that people want to have the urban experience, and it’s not just younger people, it’s older people too,” said MEREDA President Paul Peck, also an attorney and real estate developer. “That’s not slowing down.”



The two new Bayside projects reflect strong markets for both rental and owner-occupied housing.

Portland-based A&M Partners is seeking approvals to build a seven-story apartment building next to a three-level parking garage at 75 Chestnut St. in West Bayside. The 54 units at Westerlea View Lofts would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, A&M President Lou Wood said.

Portland-based A&M Partners wants to build a 54-unit apartment complex at 75 Chestnut St. in West Bayside. One- and two-bedroom units are planned.

Portland-based A&M Partners wants to build a 54-unit apartment complex at 75 Chestnut St. in West Bayside. One- and two-bedroom units are planned.

“We’re looking to really meet a need in the city that is affordable in terms of your average market-rate apartment,” said Wood, noting it was too soon to estimate rent prices. “I’m not interested in building a building and having it all high-end.”

The building is proposed for a grassy slope of land between Lancaster and Oxford streets in a neighborhood known for social service agencies and industrial properties. The site is located near two affordable housing developments – Unity Village and Pearl Place. The units would overlook a portion of Bayside that still shows its former industrial heritage, including a metal scrapyard.

It’s also less than a block from the city’s homeless shelters and about two blocks from the proposed “midtown” project, which includes up to 440 market-rate apartments with first-floor retail and an 850-vehicle parking garage. The Florida-based Federated Cos. closed on the 3.5-acre property in June, but has not yet begun construction.

There will be a neighborhood meeting to discuss the Chestnut Street proposal at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at the corner of Chestnut and Oxford streets.


The proposal comes at a time when the city is concentrating more police and social service resources to cleaning up the West Bayside neighborhood. The city itself is in the process of moving its Public Works operations out of the neighborhood and plans to sell the property for redevelopment.


About a mile away in East Bayside, a distinctive, high-end condominium project is being proposed for 180 Washington Ave., a nearly 2,900 square-foot lot sandwiched between two single-story brick buildings, one of which is the Amvets Charles J. Loring Post 25.

Architect David Harmon, who is doing business as Maine Modern Development, wants to replace a small single-family home with a five-story building containing five condos.

Left: The home currently at 180 Washington Ave. Right: The proposed condo building.

Left: The home currently at 180 Washington Ave. Right: A rendering of the proposed condo building.

The property and vacant three-bedroom Cape, built in 1850, have a tax-assessed value of $123,800, city records show.

According to the project’s website, a 545-square-foot studio on the ground floor of the future condo building is available for $199,000. Four other units, each roughly 1,500 square feet with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a terrace, would sell for $649,000 to $950,000.


The building, which is 50 feet tall with parking for four vehicles on the first floor, has a boxy metallic look without windows on two sides, primarily because of zoning restrictions. The units will have windows overlooking Washington Avenue, as well as a west-facing view of Bayside and Back Cove.

It will be designed to be highly energy efficient, with the option of adding solar arrays, planning files show.

“The project … possesses a modern design aesthetic,” consultant Patrick Venne wrote in a memo to planners. “It also intends to seek ‘passive’ energy use status, and presents potential for a rooftop solar array. As such, it presents a dynamic and forward-thinking concept for the Portland peninsula’s growing residential market.”

The “passive house” standard indicates a highly energy efficient building with low heating and power costs.

The developer is slated to go before the Planning Board in September and hopes to begin construction by the end of the year, Venne said in an email.

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