The Portland Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously recommended a zoning change that would allow a 68-foot-tall cold storage warehouse to be built in a port development zone on the western waterfront. The City Council must still vote on the zoning change.

The Planning Board has been debating the change for nearly a year, and the proposed freezer warehouse has prompted fierce opposition from some West End residents concerned about blocked views, building appearance and traffic. Some have disputed whether the building needs to be as large as proposed.

Some of that opposition has softened during Planning Board deliberations.

During Tuesday evening’s public hearing, a handful of West End residents thanked the board for an extensive public process and said the final proposal was a reasonable compromise.

“We have truly been engaged in trying to get it right, and we feel that working together we have made a great process that to a large degree strikes the right balance,” said Anne Pringle, president of the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association. The process included more than 40 meetings with members of the public, elected officials, property owners and business associations.

“No one is 100 percent satisfied, but that is what public process is about, vigorous public debate, that is what this issue deserves, and we got it,” Pringle said.


The majority of speakers urged the board to approve the zoning changes, saying it was vital to develop and strengthen the Port of Portland.

The changes would increase the maximum building height from 45 feet to 55 feet. Buildings with a primary marine use of up to 75 feet tall would be allowed in a section of the zone west of the Casco Bay Bridge. The changes include provisions to limit buildings’ footprints, set them back from Commercial Street and provide corridors between properties to protect views. Only one tall building would be allowed on each of the few parcels in the zone, to prevent congestion.

Those provisions were added to ease concerns that a wall of huge industrial buildings could be built along west Commercial Street, blocking views and marring a gateway to the city.

The zoning change was requested by Portland’s Economic Development Department. Americold, the largest cold storage company in the U.S., would construct and own the facility on land owned by the state through the Maine Port Authority.

“I’m pleased with the outcome,” John Henshaw, executive director of the authority, said after the meeting. “I think the process played out well, people were heard, compromises were made and we ended up with a good solution.”

Construction is estimated to cost $30 million. Icelandic shipping company Eimskip, which specializes in refrigerated cargo, plans to move its U.S. headquarters into the building.


Officials say the warehouse needs to be as tall as proposed to be competitive with similar facilities in Massachusetts and to handle Eimskip’s projected shipping volume.

Proponents of the building are adamant that it will benefit Maine’s burgeoning food economy and allow Eimskip to grow its shipping business between the U.S. and European countries.

“The most important thing is the impact that cold storage will have on the city, the Greater Portland area and the state,” Henshaw said.

The zoning changes would also allow other companies to develop in the zone, including Portland Yacht Services, which has expressed interest in building a larger maintenance building to service ferries and other large boats.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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