Artist renderings for the Roux Institute campus at the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory in East Deering.  Rendering by CambridgeSeven

Portland’s planning board approved on Tuesday night the construction of a new Roux Institute campus at the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory in East Deering.

The institute, part of Northeastern University, envisions the campus as a high-tech graduate school, business accelerator and training pipeline to boost Maine’s workforce and economy. When complete, the campus is expected to host about 5,000 students.

The proposal has drawn significant public interest, with many Portlanders excited about the new opportunities the campus could bring and others concerned about traffic and changes to the neighborhood. Last year, Gov. Janet Mills wrote a letter in support of the project, an unusual move for the governor, who typically does not get involved in municipal issues.

Several board members said they were concerned about the potential for significant traffic in the neighborhood alongside the campus. Board members floated several ideas to reduce traffic, including offering less parking on campus as a way to discourage people from driving there.

After a lengthy discussion, two amendments were added to the site plan. One stipulated that should Metro bus service to campus be unsuccessful, Roux must return to the planning board for amendments to the traffic management plan. The second requires Roux to monitor traffic at Sherwood and Veranda streets and submit a report to the board six months and one year after the campus opens. The proposal was ultimately approved.


More than 40 people submitted written comments ahead of Tuesday’s public hearing – most were supportive.

“Our campus on Fore Street is great, but the new larger campus will be amazing. With more room for start-up companies and research firms, a full Library,” wrote Abagail Anash, a current student at the Roux Institute. “I can envision a very dynamic environment in which to work and learn. I hope you will give the permit your approval.”

The meeting was packed and more than 30 people offered public comment in person, with most of them expressing concerns about traffic and parking in the neighborhood.

Suzanne Foley-Ferguson, owner of Beals Ice Cream on Veranda Street, said she supports the project but is concerned about losing parking near her shop with the increased traffic in the area. “You can tell people not to drive their cars but this is Maine. From October through April I don’t have people coming into my shop on foot or by bike,” she said. “It’s a great project and I think you’re going to grow. You need an exit off of (Interstate) 295 or you need a shuttle,” Foley-Ferguson said.

Several other commenters also brought up the idea of an off-site satellite parking lot with shuttle service to the new campus, something that is not included in Roux’s current traffic mitigation plan.

Traffic consultant Tom Errico spoke during the meeting about plans to alleviate anticipated traffic near campus. Some proposed traffic mitigation efforts include prohibiting left turns from Veranda Street on to I-295, upgrading the signal system at that intersection and adding a lane to Sherwood Street where it approaches Veranda Street. The new campus also plans to be a major Metro hub, a vision Roux is working toward with the Maine Department of Transportation.


Errico also addressed concerns about kids walking to the nearby Presumpscot Elementary School. He said that crossing guards and a reduced speed limit may be implemented to keep pedestrians safe.


Still, many people who spoke at the meeting were concerned.

“The city of Portland can make as many traffic changes as they want, and there have been plenty of good ideas,” said Ben Carling, an East Deering resident. “But even so, most likely, Sherwood Street will be the single entry and exit for this project, one car accident, one protest, one gas leak and the campus will be shut down, everyone trapped inside until the situation clears.” 

Joe Winston, another East Deering resident said he supports the project but doesn’t think the traffic mitigation plans are enough. “I’m also in favor of the Roux, when you first came in here I was excited. But you’re a school of innovation? I haven’t seen much innovation,” Winston said. “The traffic mitigation plan at this point feels like lipstick on a pig. Nothing here is going to really address the increased traffic that’s anticipated.”

After the public comment period, the board had a lengthy discussion about the project and its implications for traffic. Representatives from Roux assured the board that a satellite parking lot could be on the table in the future as a backup plan should traffic become unmanageable in the area.

The Roux Institute currently enrolls about 500 students and is operating out of a leased space at 100 Fore St. Within five years, the school plans to enroll 1,700 students and provide 175 to 250 units of housing, while the 20-year plan calls for 5,000 students and up to 650 units of housing at the site.

The Roux Institute was established about four 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.

The new campus is expected to open in 2027.

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