A warehouse at 90 Blueberry Rd. in Portland has been dropped as the site of a new emergency family shelter. The developer is seeking an alternative site with help from a $4 million grant from MaineHousing. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The developer planning a 280-bed emergency shelter in Portland says he is looking for alternative locations after dropping plans for a proposed site on Blueberry Road.

“We are hopeful to find something else,” said Kevin Bunker, founder and principal at Developers Collaborative, in an email.

Bunker said in his email that 90 Blueberry Road “didn’t work out for a number of reasons,” but did not elaborate or respond to additional questions asking for more specifics.

The change in plans could significantly impact Portland’s response to an influx of asylum seekers, many of whom are being housed in a temporary shelter at the Portland Expo. The city is expected to use the Expo through the summer and then move the roughly 300 people staying there to the new shelter developed by Bunker’s company.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said officials are hoping Developers Collaborative can find another location. “There are no impacts for us yet as we are still hopeful (the developer) will be successful with another site,” Grondin said.

In March, MaineHousing awarded $4 million to the Center for Regional Prosperity, the nonprofit arm of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, to develop a shelter at the Blueberry Road site.


The funding was part of a winter energy relief plan approved by Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Legislature that included $16.3 million for long-term shelter and housing projects around the state.

Tom Bell, a spokesperson for GPCOG, said in an email that different locations for the shelter are being discussed and “we expect there will be news about a new proposed location within the next couple of weeks.”

Some neighboring businesses on Blueberry Road voiced complaints about the original plans last month, saying the area is too industrial and there are health and safety hazards that make it an inappropriate location for a shelter. It was unclear whether those complaints factored into the change.

The site, a former furniture manufacturing facility, was also looked at by the city and state as a possible location for an emergency shelter last year, but city officials said in June 2022 that it fell through because the requirements of the Green New Deal building code would have added too much to the cost and extended the time frame needed to complete renovations.

Grondin said she didn’t have any details from Developers Collaborative about why the site didn’t work for them.

A spokesperson for MaineHousing said they also did not have details on why the site didn’t work.


“MaineHousing will be as flexible as we possibly can with this grant because the need is so great,” said spokesperson Scott Thistle. “We want to see a shelter go up by the fall because we know the demand and the need is great.”

Thistle said the amount of the grant may be amended if the scale of the project changes, but that MaineHousing wants to work with the center and the developer on it.

However, if a new project is not designated by June 30 the funding will need to be returned to the state general fund. The shelter will also need to be up and running by Oct. 31 in order for the applicant to keep the grant money, he said.

The grant application submitted to MaineHousing calls for Developers Collaborative to “fit-up” the 90 Blueberry Road facility and then sub-lease the space to an unspecified nonprofit for shelter operations. About 93 families, or 280 individuals, could have been accommodated, it said.

The application said the shelter would be for families experiencing homelessness – many of which are asylum seekers.

As of May 16, nearly 1,400 asylum seekers had arrived in Portland since Jan. 1. Out of 419 people being sheltered between the Expo and the city’s Family Shelter, there was only one non-asylum seeking family.

In addition, about 70% of individuals sheltered at the city’s Homeless Services Center are asylum seekers.

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