REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Developer pitches office complex on Fore Street

Developer Jonathan Cohen has submitted plans to redevelop his Portland property at 100 Fore St. into a fitness center and office complex with a parking garage for nearly 600 vehicles. The project, estimated to cost $23 million to $31 million, would require demolishing all but 9,000 square feet of an existing single-story building on a downward sloping parcel that currently houses Hamilton Marine, Xpress Copy and other businesses. The current proposal calls for a single-story design along Fore Street, with four stories closer to the waterfront. Three decks of parking would be masked with two retail stores on each corner of Fore Street. The Planning Board has held one workshop on the proposal. Read the story.

Owners appeal auction of historic Portland inn

The Danforth Inn, a West End mansion in Portland that dates to 1823, faces an uncertain future as it heads to the auction block in less than two weeks. The owners of the nine-bedroom luxury inn, who also own the Camden Harbour Inn, filed for bankruptcy in March, staving off foreclosure temporarily. They then tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the Portland property for nearly $2.6 million in order to restructure their holdings. Now the owners are appealing the auction order to give a prospective buyer more time to arrange financing. The auction is set for Nov. 16. Read the story.

Investors considering $10 million strawberry greenhouse project

The developer behind a planned $10 million strawberry greenhouse project in the Madison Business Gateway said Monday night no timeline has been set for the project and “things are going well, but it’s a very, very slow process.” Evan Coleman, who spoke on behalf of developer Northern Farms LLC at a Madison Board of Selectmen’s meeting, helped bring a 5-megawatt solar farm to the business park through his company Clear Energy LLC. He said the greenhouse project is not set in stone, but backers are evaluating its feasibility and whether to make the investment. Read the story.

Bank moves into new dorm’s mixed-use space

Camden National Bank drew a crowd Monday for a ceremony marking its new home in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons in downtown Waterville, making the bank the first commercial operation to move into the newly completed mixed-use building. Camden sold its former location on lower Main Street downtown to Colby College, which plans to raze the building and build a boutique hotel there starting next year. Construction started in May on the new bank branch, which opened Oct. 29 on the ground floor of Colby’s dormitory building, where 200 students, staff and faculty are housed on the upper floors. Read the story.

RETAIL

Holiday checks headed to L.L. Bean employees

L.L. Bean will award holiday checks to employees this year, an indication that the Freeport retailer is emerging from a tough financial year. The company has seen an increase in sales this fall, a spokeswoman said, prompting executives to revive the holiday bonuses, which were suspended last year. The return of the holiday checks, which range from $35 to $165, is a welcome sign in a year when the company reduced its workforce and repealed its legendary return policy. Read the story.

ENERGY

Pipeline company plans to appeal ruling on ‘Clear Skies’ ordinance

Attorneys for the Portland Pipe Line Corp. filed a notice of appeal Wednesday in Portland, announcing that the company will seek to overturn the U.S. District Court ruling that upheld South Portland’s “Clear Skies” ordinance. The appeal will be heard by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. A court date has not been set. In August 2018, a judge for the U.S. District Court in Portland ruled that South Portland has a right to enact zoning ordinance amendments that prohibit an activity that has never occurred in the city – the bulk loading of foreign crude oil onto tankers. The ordinance effectively blocked the company from reversing the flow of a 236-mile pipeline that has carried foreign crude from harbor terminals in South Portland to refineries in Montreal since World War II. Read the story.

LABOR

Paid sick leave new focus of Maine People’s Alliance

The group behind the failed home care referendum is working on its next effort, a measure that would ensure the availability of paid sick leave for all Maine workers. The latest potential referendum effort by the progressive Maine People’s Alliance would require all employers in the state to offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked – roughly half a day per month – and allow employees to roll over up to 40 unused hours of sick leave annually. If the measure is successful, Maine would follow in the footsteps of several other states that already require employers to offer paid leave to their workers to recover from an illness or to care for a sick family member. Backers are considering whether to introduce another ballot question to voters, or introduce legislation in the next legislative session, when both houses will be controlled by Democrats. Read the story.

Early College program expands with intent to help fill workforce gaps

The University of Maine System is ramping up a program that’s designed to encourage more young Mainers to attend and graduate from college – and to fill gaps in Maine’s aging workforce. Known as the Early College program, it allows qualifying high school students to attend college classes online, at their high school or at a nearby college campus. The students get to sample potential career fields and get a better sense of what college is like while they earn college credit. The program also serves an important workforce development function by making it easier for Maine high school students to make the transition to college and a successful career. Recent additions to the program include a component aimed specifically at rural students, round-the-clock online tutoring and better coordination among the participating high schools. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

State budget fortified against recession by rainy day fund

Maine has twice as much money in reserves as it had at the start of the Great Recession, enough to weather one or two years of a new economic downturn. That’s the finding of a recent “stress test” of the state’s revenues and reserves, a requirement of the last biennial budget. The $273 million Maine has in its budget stabilization fund – the most on record – could cover revenue shortfalls caused by a moderate recession for almost two years and support the budget for one year in a serious economic downturn. But it is not enough to offset revenue shortfalls over a five-year period, the study found. Almost all $129 million the state had on hand in 2009 was spent to prop up the budget that year. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Lewiston hospital elevates safety rating

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, which had been assigned a C grade from a national hospital safety group, now has an A rating. The Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks health care safety, quality and value at hospitals, made the upgrade in its latest assessment of U.S. hospitals. CMMC is now one of the highest-rated hospitals in the state. Hospital staff said it wasn’t one thing that accounted for the improved rating, but noted there were significant decreases in central line infections, urinary tract infections, surgical site infections and post-operative infections along incision lines since they started re-educating staff about standards of care and infections over the past year. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Lewiston-Auburn sees promise in rail connection to Portland

Heading into the final phase of a feasibility study on establishing a passenger rail connection between Lewiston-Auburn and Portland, committee officials say the decision may come down to how much federal and state subsidy will be available for the project. During a City Council workshop Monday, former Councilor Bob Stone said while the study has shown a “latent demand” for a passenger rail connection to Portland, barring “a surprise” he doesn’t believe the Twin Cities will be able to afford the project by themselves. The study shows that the potential ridership is there, including riders attracted from areas outside Lewiston-Auburn, and that there are a range of connection options that could bring riders to the Amtrak Downeaster in Portland. The second phase of the study, expected to be complete by March 2019, should offer more in-depth answers on the connection locations, service scenarios and infrastructure needs. Read the story.