REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Time & Temp building on the auction block

After years of neglect and a foreclosure in 2016, the Time & Temperature Building in downtown Portland is being auctioned off. Real estate brokerages Colliers International and Cardente Real Estate have issued a notice stating that the iconic office building, known for its 9-foot-high digital rooftop clock, will go up for auction on Oct. 9 with a minimum starting bid of $2.75 million. The property’s assessed value for tax purposes is $4.5 million. The 14-story office tower at 477 Congress St., which opened in 1924 as the 12-story Chapman Building, was seized by a collection agency in 2016 following years of neglect and a mass exodus of tenants. But the market for commercial real estate in downtown Portland is stronger than it has been in many years, say local brokers, which bodes well for the Time & Temperature Building’s prospects for a successful auction. Read the story.

Former trash incinerator site considered for development

Biddeford officials announced Monday that they have entered into discussions with two businessmen who want to develop the Lincoln Street property that once housed a controversial trash incinerator. Mayor Alan Casavant said the city has entered discussions with James Brady and Brian Eng about building a mixed-use development at 3 Lincoln St., the former site of the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator. The 8½-acre riverfront property is already the proposed location of the city’s first municipal parking garage. The city bought the Lincoln Street property for $6.65 million in 2012 after Casella Waste Systems, the parent company of Maine Energy, announced it would close the facility. In the past six years, downtown Biddeford has been undergoing a revitalization, which officials attribute to the removal of the trash incinerator. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Turnpike board OKs 5 miles of widening near Portland

The Maine Turnpike Authority will move quickly to widen part of the four-lane highway in the Portland area. The authority’s board of directors on Thursday approved a scaled-back plan to add a travel lane in each direction to about 5 miles of the turnpike, which is Interstate 95, from Scarborough to about a mile beyond the Larrabee Road exit in Portland. The original plan called for widening about 9 miles of the highway. Besides adding more roadway, the plan includes replacing three bridges and modifying several others, redesigning the Exit 45 interchange in South Portland and improving medians. The estimated cost is $140 million to $160 million, said turnpike authority Executive Director Peter Mills said. Construction is expected to start next year and wrap up by 2022. Read the story.

Labor Day traffic sets new record

Southbound traffic at the Maine Turnpike’s toll plaza in York averaged about 3,500 vehicles an hour during the day Monday, enough to break last year’s record for the holiday weekend. Traffic heading south on the Maine Turnpike was heavy but steady throughout Labor Day, as vacationers returned home after squeezing in a last-minute Maine trip before the unofficial end of summer, signaling the end of tourist season. Turnpike officials said they were expecting record-breaking traffic based on a number of factors, including good weather and the fact that traffic so far this summer had trended ahead of last year. Turnpike toll transactions were up about 5 percent over the 1.06 million for Labor Day weekend in 2017. Read the story.

Construction work to disrupt Downeaster service

Railroad construction in Southern Maine and New Hampshire will disrupt passenger rail service from the Amtrak Downeaster into early October. Weekday service will be limited and passengers on most of the line should expect to take part of their trip by bus, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Weekend service will operate normally, but there will be construction-related delays, Quinn said. Most fares have been reduced during the construction period. Pan Am Railways is replacing about 15,000 railroad ties and restoring a number of grade crossings between Portland and Dover, New Hampshire. Construction is expected to wrap up by Oct. 5. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Canadian company buying Portland’s Ready Seafood

A Canadian specialty foods company has signed a deal to buy Ready Seafood, one of Maine’s largest lobster dealers and processors. John and Brendan Ready first approached Premium Brands of Vancouver about six months ago while seeking help building a 40-acre lobster processing and research campus in Saco. That developed into a long-term strategic partnership, said John Ready. He said he and his brother will remain as co-chief executive officers of the business they founded in 2004. Terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed. The acquisition will give Ready access to Premium Brands’ worldwide market of almost 2,200 buyers. Read the story.

Lobster wholesaler charges former co-owner with embezzlement

A lobster wholesaler is suing one of its part owners, alleging he embezzled nearly $1.5 million from the business. Sea Salt, which operates as a wholesaler and a restaurant on Route 1 in Saco, alleges that the part owner, Matthew Bellerose of Scarborough, set up a sham customer with another man and then sent the phony client thousands of dollars worth of lobsters without billing the customer. The lobsters were then resold, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit, filed in York County Superior Court, alleges that $1,496,427 was embezzled from Sea Salt, but a footnote says the full amount of the loss is still being investigated and “is likely in excess of $2 (million).” Bellerose declined comment when contacted by phone Wednesday and hung up when a reporter asked questions about the allegations. His lawyer did not return a call seeking comment. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Sappi formally drops ‘S.D. Warren’ from corporate name

After 164 years, a major name in Maine and paper history is being erased. Sappi North America is formally dropping the S.D. Warren Co. name where it is still in use at the Westbrook mill it bought in 1994 and other sites that were part of the acquisition. Sappi North America submitted a letter to federal energy regulators last week to change the name on six dams. A spokeswoman for the company, which is headquartered internationally in South Africa, said the change was being made for “administrative reasons.” The name is intertwined with the history of Westbrook, where the mill was founded in 1854. Read the story.

Investor group considering saving Fork Food Lab

Fans of Fork Food Lab have cooked up a plan to save the kitchen incubator that has helped launch food businesses making everything from almond milk to whoopie pies. A group of entrepreneurs is in negotiations to take over the operation of the Portland shared commercial kitchen as a nonprofit on or about Oct. 1, said Bill Seretta, president of The Sustainability Lab in Yarmouth and chair of the Maine Food System Innovation Challenge. Fork Food Lab was founded in 2016, then purchased last year by New York-based Pilotworks, which operates three other shared commercial kitchens in the country. The company abruptly announced at the end of July that it was closing the Portland operation and that Fork Food Lab members would have until the end of September to vacate the building. Read the story.

HOSPITALITY

South Portland short-term rental ordinance headed to voters

South Portland’s City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to let voters decide a hotly contested ordinance that regulates short-term residential rentals. Tuesday’s vote followed more than two hours of public testimony and debate among City Council members, who had the option of repealing a short-term rental ordinance that they had enacted this summer. Instead, the majority of the City Council said they were satisfied with the regulations they had adopted and that now it was time for South Portland’s citizens to decide whether they wanted to keep them. The referendum vote will take place Nov. 6. Read the story