An artist rendering envisions the Roux Institute campus at the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory in East Deering, where the proposal calls for phased development of buildings for offices and classrooms, apartments, eateries and a hotel on the 13-acre property. Rendering by Tsoi Kobus Design and Stimson Landscape Architects

The Portland Planning Board is recommending that the city adopt zoning changes requested by the developers of a new graduate school and research center in order to facilitate its construction at the former B&M Baked Beans factory site.

The board voted Tuesday night to recommend to the City Council several changes, including a change to the underlying zoning of the site from I-M – moderate impact industrial – to B-5, a mixed-use designation that broadly permits residential, office, retail, restaurants and low-impact industry.

The board also has asked the council to allow a new institutional overlay zone for the Roux Institute and is recommending a map and regulatory framework for the zone. An institutional overlay zone is an additional layer of zoning used for the city’s major medical and educational campuses to regulate and facilitate long-term growth.

The board unanimously approved most of the recommendations, with the exception of the regulatory framework, which the board voted to recommend 5-1 after member David Silk expressed concerns about a lack of detail around traffic and transportation plans. Board member Justin Barker was absent.

“I think this will be a good project and I hope the council agrees with us,” said planning board Chair Maggie Stanley, who noted that the project is still in early development stages.

“There will be many more meetings and many more ways to get involved as this project gets built,” she said.


If approved by the council, the changes requested by the nonprofit Initiative for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences, or IDEALS, would facilitate the institute’s phased development of buildings for offices and classrooms, apartments, eateries and a hotel on the 13-acre property.

Within five years, the institute – which is part of Northeastern University – expects to have 1,750 students on campus, up to 50,000 square feet for business incubators, between 175 and 250 residential units, a 90,000-square-foot hotel and 10,000 square feet of retail space, according to materials submitted to the board.

In the long term – 20 years or more in the future – the campus would be home to 5,100 students and include up to 650 residential units. At least 3 acres of permanent public space would be set aside and preserved early in development.

Members of the public, including some Roux Institute employees, spoke overwhelmingly in support of the zoning changes and the project generally, though a few expressed concerns about traffic and the amount of commercial development included.

Phil Caruso, who sends his daughter to day care near the site, said he’s excited about the plans and thinks the project will bring unique educational opportunities to the city. In his day job, Caruso said he advises companies on where around the country they should build their workforce.

“These are the sorts of investments – the plans from the Roux Institute here – that move the needle in the boardroom,” Caruso said.


Michael Brennan, a representative to the Maine Legislature and former mayor, said the project is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for Portland, the region and the state. Brennan said a recent report from the Maine Development Foundation found Maine lags most states in its investments in research and development.

“This project has the opportunity to immediately step into that situation and catapult Portland and the state to a national stage in research and development that right now we’re just not capable of doing,” Brennan said.

Steve Von Vogt, a resident of East Deering, where the site is located, said neighbors are supportive of the institute, but they’re also worried about the size and scale. “We’re concerned that there need to be realistic and real solutions to the traffic situation,” Von Vogt said.

Silk, the board member who voted against the framework, said he is largely comfortable with the zone changes but is worried about traffic and transportation. “Because of the increase in density and increase in use and the difficulties associated with Veranda Street and access to the site. … What will happen if some of the very aggressive projections made for some of the transportation modes aren’t met?” Silk asked.

Other board members and city staff, meanwhile, noted that there are still other opportunities for details of the project to be worked out, such as through the site plan review process and traffic plan permitting. “These (zoning changes) provide a framework to understand the project as a whole over an expansive time period,” Stanley said.

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

IDEALS was formed to site and develop the campus, and last year it announced that it had purchased the B&M site at 1 Bean Pot Circle. For now, the institute is operating out of leased space at 100 Fore St. and enrolls about 500 graduate students, though plans submitted to the city say more space is needed.

Chuck Hewett, executive director of IDEALS, thanked the board Tuesday for its work on the proposal.

“I can’t tell you how much we believe in the Roux Institute mission and vision, which boiled down is to create opportunity for generations of our children and grandchildren to participate successfully in the 21st century economy,” Hewett said.

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