PK Realty Management owns 30 acres of former shipyard property in South Portland. In this 2014 photo, a portion of the property appears just above and to the right of the oil tanks. Bug Light Park is at top in photo.

SOUTH PORTLAND — Slow and deliberate aren’t words typically associated with real estate development.

But that’s the approach PK Realty Management intends to take as the company begins planning the redevelopment of 30 acres of former shipyard land purchased in 2018.

The former owner, the late John Cacoulidis, got nowhere when he pitched a gasp-inducing plan to build a $900 million high-rise convention center with a cable-car system across Portland Harbor.

PK Realty is focusing first on major concerns that the Cacoulidis proposal failed to address, including worries about increased traffic, precious waterfront access and compatibility with a well-established residential neighborhood on one side and Bug Light Park on the other.

“Our process has been quite slow and deliberate so far,” said Jennifer Packard, president of PK Realty and manager of the Liberty Shipyard Project.

“We’re trying to do wise development,” Packard continued. “We’ll probably make mistakes, as does anyone. But we feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and we’d like to be wise in how we develop the property.”


On Tuesday night, PK Realty got the City Council’s OK to hire Ransom Consulting Engineers and Scientists of Portland to work on the project.

Ransom is conducting a survey for the city of so-called brownfields that may have soil contaminated by petroleum and other hazardous substances. The survey, funded by a $300,000 federal grant, includes the former shipyard property.

PK Realty, also of Portland, sought a conflict-of-interest waiver from the council so it could hire Ransom to oversee the remediation of any contamination found on the shipyard property, and possibly the redevelopment project itself.

Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said PK Realty wanted to avoid the potential appearance of a conflict and assure the public of future transparency on the project.

“They want to make sure they’re not doing anything the city or the community isn’t comfortable with,” Reny said. “This property is so significant to the city, we want to make sure everyone is being as transparent as possible.”

Located off Broadway, the property in question was part of a marine industrial complex where Liberty ships were built during World War II. It includes several industrial buildings and stretches across a significant portion of Cushing’s Point, just beyond the Ferry Village neighborhood.


L+R Northpoint, a holding company of PK Realty, purchased the former shipyard land for $7.8 million in November 2018, according to city tax records. It’s in the shipyard zoning district, which allows a variety of light industrial, marine and commercial uses, including hotels, restaurants, offices and shops.

Cacoulidis, who died in 2018, proposed a convention center in 2001 that featured two 41-story, elliptical-shaped hotel towers with a total of 2,600 rooms. It also called for a 300-foot-tall cable-car system that would have carried visitors across the harbor to Portland, a marina for cruise ships and two hospitals, for general and plastic surgery.

Public reaction ranged from disbelief to anger, with many saying the plan was too big and too urban. Neighbors were especially concerned about the limited carrying capacity of Broadway, a two-lane artery that feeds the peninsula and is heavily used as the main route to Southern Maine Community College.

PK Realty is tackling traffic worries first, working with the Greater Portland Council of Governments to conduct a transportation study that would consider potential solutions to increased congestion, Packard said. It would assess the potential benefits of additional public transportation on Broadway, demand-triggered traffic lights and harbor shuttles between South Portland and Portland.

“Traffic is going to be a central question,” Packard said. “Without reliable data, we’re not going to be able to address it.”

PK Realty also will be working with a sustainability coordinator to ensure that the project meets certain standards for environmental and social impacts. That would include everything from the materials used in construction to how the public interacts with the development, including public access to open space and the waterfront.

“We want to make sure from the very beginning that our plans give us the best result possible,” Packard said.

PK Realty plans to seek community input and hold public forums later this year, possibly online given the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is open to a variety of mixed-use development ideas, including residential, commercial and recreational options, Packard said, and she’s in no hurry to rush the process.

“We want to understand where people are on this,” Packard said. “With our current tenants, the property is self-sustaining. It affords us the luxury of time.”

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