A conceptual rendering for the Roux Institute at Northeastern University, planned for the former B&M Baked Beans factory site in Portland. The actual design has yet to be finalized, and the developers reduced their planned footprint for the project this week by more than 25 percent. Courtesy of the Institute for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences

The developer of a permanent Portland home for the Roux Institute at Northeastern University has significantly reduced the campus’ planned footprint in response to neighborhood concerns about the scale of the project at the former B&M Baked Beans factory site.

It reduced the planned square footage by more than one-quarter, lowered the maximum building height by nearly one-fifth and scaled back a planned hotel development, according to a submission to the city planning department filed this week by the Institute for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences, or IDEALS, the nonprofit redeveloping the former factory.

Overall, the planned development – including classroom and laboratory space, a business incubator, apartments, public space, retail and more – would be reduced by 468,000 square feet, or about 27 percent of what was initially proposed.

Changes were proposed after listening to concerns from neighbors and residents about the scale of the initial campus proposal, said IDEALS Executive Director Chuck Hewett.

“The major concern we heard again and again was that it was just too dense; in particular, building heights and traffic were a concern,” Hewett said in an interview.

Changes to the campus plans were first reported by Mainebiz. The Portland Planning Board is scheduled to discuss the proposal at a workshop on June 14. IDEALS is asking for a zoning change for the property and an institutional development overlay that would set it up for a phased development over the next two decades.


The Roux Institute was established more than two years ago with a $100 million donation from David Roux, a Lewiston native and wealthy technology entrepreneur. Its founders envisioned a high-tech graduate school, business accelerator and training pipeline to boost Maine’s workforce and economy.

Roux has said he worked for two years to find the right academic partner for the institute. Of 12 choices, he selected Boston-based Northeastern because of its track record for entrepreneurship, collaboration with private industry and experience creating satellite campuses. IDEALS was formed to site and develop a permanent campus.

Last year, IDEALS announced it had purchased the B&M site.

A 20-year development plan filed with the city in February sought zoning adjustments that would allow it to build what would be Portland’s tallest buildings. The proposal included 500 to 800 apartments and nearly 155,000 square feet of retail, dining and lodging space.

The revised version trims the housing to no more than 650 units, and commercial space to about 115,000 square feet, including a 90,000-square-foot hotel.

Proposed building heights have been lowered, too. The initial plan called for a 210-foot-tall building, which would have been the city’s tallest. Two more buildings were proposed at 175 feet and 165 feet.

Under the new plan, the tallest building in the center of the campus would be 175 feet, while four others would be between 150 feet and 155 feet tall.

The new plan is slimmed down enough to address residents’ concerns, but still gives the Roux Institute the amenities it requires for a cutting-edge research, education and entrepreneurial space, Hewett said.

“We think we have made really, really significant concessions that hopefully, at the very least, show people we are listening to their concerns,” he said.

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