The city of Portland is receiving a $250,000 federal grant to conduct environmental assessments on potentially contaminated sites for future redevelopment, including 67 acres in the Bayside and East Bayside neighborhoods.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that three organizations will receive $1.3 million in “Brownfields” grants to clean up former industrial and commercial properties. In addition to Portland, the nonprofit Our Katahdin will receive $850,000 to redevelop the former Great Northern Paper mill site in Millinocket, while the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments is slated to receive $300,000 for three projects.

In Portland, the $250,000 grant will be primarily focused on the Bayside/East Bayside area and, in particular, a two-block industrial tract bounded by Somerset and Lancaster streets in one direction and Chestnut and Pearl streets in the other.

Just a few blocks from the Marginal Way complexes that include Trader Joe’s and Planet Fitness, the 67 acres are now used as a metal scrap yard, parking lots and as storage areas for trailers. The parcels are within a prime development zone for the city, which has prioritized the area for commercial and residential development.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said the EPA grant will allow the city to do a more in-depth assessment of the sites, which are known to have environmental issues because of their industrial usage. The grant will also allow the city to develop cleanup plans and perform community outreach.

“EPA’s grant award will enable the city of Portland, through the Economic Development Department, to provide grants to evaluate environmental contamination to eligible commercial and residential sites to support their redevelopment and reuse,” Snyder said in a statement.


The parcels are near other lots where a developer, Federated Cos., had planned to build an $85 million project featuring 450 housing units, 100,000 square feet of retail space and a large parking garage. The so-called midtown project never came to fruition, however, spawning a lawsuit between the developer and the city.

Launched in the 1990s, the EPA’s Brownfields program provides funds to local governments or organizations to clean up former industrial or commercial sites for new uses. Dozens of projects throughout Maine have received $94 million in Brownfields funding since the program’s inception. Past projects in Portland have included Thompson’s Point, the International Marine Terminal and Bayside Rail property.

The largest chunk of the funding announced Thursday will go toward efforts to convert the 1,400-acre Great Northern Paper mill site in Millinocket into a mixed-used development.

Of the $850,000, $350,000 will be used to conduct environmental assessments on the sprawling property. The remaining $500,000 will be used to remove asbestos, lead, PCBs and other hazardous materials from the former administration building.

Our Katahdin was previously rejected twice for Brownfields funding because of a $1.5 million tax lien by the Internal Revenue Service that the nonprofit had inherited when it took ownership of the property. That lien was settled last year, however, opening the door for the funding.

Sean DeWitt, president of Our Katahdin, said Thursday that it is “hard to understate the importance of that administration building” because it will serve as the primary office complex for companies locating on the redeveloped site.


“This is kind of the heart and soul of our community,” DeWitt said during a telephone press conference organized by the EPA on Thursday.

The priority projects for the $300,000 awarded to the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments will be the Lewiston-Auburn Community Housing Project in Lewiston, the former St. Louis Church in Auburn, and the former Holy Savior School in Rumford.

The EPA’s New England regional administrator, Dennis Deziel, noted that the Brownfields funding should help stimulate economic development and jobs at a time when the national economy is taking a serious hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is also the reason why the EPA announced the funding awards via phone rather than at each site.

“I do love giving out those big checks in person at press conferences, but don’t worry. We will put those checks in the mail soon as soon as we can find envelopes to hold them,” Deziel said.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.