The city is selling a bunch of property in Bayside

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight: The city is selling five acres in Bayside; a local doughnut shop is expanding into a vacant Tim Hortons; and the city cracks down on a would-be RV park. Let’s do this!

What we’re talking about

A Portland Department of Public Works building that is part of the Bayside property the city will soon be selling.  (Jake Bleiberg | BDN)

A Portland Department of Public Works building that is part of the Bayside property the city will soon be selling. (Jake Bleiberg | BDN)

With development booming and housing scarce, Portland is finally selling a large downtown property occupied by the public works department.

The city will be taking bids from real estate brokers to handle the sale this week and hopes to have the 5-acre Bayside property and several municipal buildings that occupy it on the market within 45 days, said Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director.

“We’ve been discussing putting this property on the market for the last decade,” said Mitchell. “It’s an incredible opportunity to stimulate new investment in Bayside.”

The city intends to sell it at market rate, without any conditions about how it is developed beyond those specified in the land-use and zoning ordinances, according to Mitchell. The lot, bound by Kennebec, Portland, Parris and Adler streets, is zoned for mixed commercial and residential use.

The city has had the value of the property assessed, but Mitchell declined to share the figure, saying it would hurt the city’s bargaining position. In June, the city sold 3 acres of vacant, nearby land for $2.3 million dollars to the Florida-based developer of the midtown project.

The public works department is set to move to a property on Canco Road that the city purchased in 2015.

News that the city would sell the property on the open market was welcomed by Bayside residents who want the space to become new housing and businesses.

That kind of development would help combat the culture of public drinking and drug use that has become prevalent in the neighborhood, where services for the city’s homeless have become concentrated, said Laura Cannon, vice president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association.

“There are all these huge empty lots so there are no eyes on the street to counteract the behaviors that come out of the concentration of people going through hard times,” she said. “We want this property to include residences. Bayside needs long-term residents to be invested in the neighborhood and community.”

The property is being put on the market as city councilors ponder changes to the zoning code that limits homeless shelters to an oddly shaped section of downtown. Rather than the cluster of homeless services in Bayside, proponents of the shift envision a network of smaller shelters throughout the city that they claim would be better for homeless people and the neighborhood.

Two years ago the Preble Street Resource Center pointed to the public works lot as a potential site for a new, large homeless shelter, but Executive Director Mark Swann said that the price the site would fetch on the open market would be out of reach for his organization.

Swann was supportive of the plan to open up Portland’s zoning. But he worried that there is insufficient political will to set up a network of shelters and that an opportunity for a larger shelter is being lost with the sale of the public works property.

“I’m all for the concept of shelters spread through the city, I just don’t see it as a realistic result happening any time soon,” he said.

Cannon, however, was optimistic that the proposed policy shift and the property sale would bring change to Bayside.

“Bayside it starting to come up and I think really this is a critical building block,” she said. — Jake Bleiberg

In other news

A local doughnut shop is taking over a former Tim Hortons — Beloved breakfast pastry purveyor The Holy Donut is setting up a third location in Scarborough — in the home of a shuttered Tim Hortons. Kathleen Pierce reports:

“I think it’s symbolic that where a corporate business did not work out, a small, family run business is opening,” said owner Leigh Kellis, who signed a lease Monday on the vacant building at the Haigis Parkway crossroads. “I’m pretty psyched about it.”

Elsewhere in Bayside — A local landlord wanted to rent out two RVs (or tiny houses, depending on how you look at it). The city said no.

Randy Billings reports:

[Brent] Adler, who owns residential buildings in the city, said he believes the tiny homes are allowed because they are essentially recreational vehicles and he could not find any language in the city’s land use code prohibiting him from parking RV units on his land and renting them out.

However, Michael Russell, the city’s director of permitting and inspections, said in an email Tuesday that RV parks are not addressed in the code and are therefore prohibited.

This sailor’s body was never found after the ‘Portland Gale’ — Troy Bennett’s “permanent Portlander” series continues with New England’s biggest nautical disaster of the 19th century.

Capt. Hollis Blanchard was in command of the sidewheel steamer Portland for less than a month when he took her out of Boston Harbor at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1898. Blanchard was convinced he could outrun an oncoming storm and make it back to Portland in the morning.

He was wrong.

The Big Idea

‘Could an astronaut’s corpse bring new life to another world?’ — Don’t tell me you’ve never wondered this.



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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.