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Business seeking to bring jobs, revenue to embattled Maine State Pier in Portland

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Business seeking to bring jobs, revenue to embattled Maine State Pier in Portland

PORTLAND — A Maine business is in talks with the city to bring jobs and revenue to the waterfront by leasing as much as 10,000 square feet of the long-underused Maine State Pier.

The potential business expansion represents another incremental step toward reoccupation of the pier after the last of two competing multimillion-dollar redevelopment proposals for the high-visibility property fell apart nearly five years ago.

The proposed project was discussed during a closed-door session by the City Council’s housing and economic development committee at its Feb. 13 meeting, the committee chairman, Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, confirmed.

While city officials remain mum on the name of the business eyeing the space and nearly all details of the potential arrangement while lease negotiations continue, Mavodones acknowledged that “things are moving along” in the talks and a deal could be announced publicly in the “relatively near future.”

“I would say we’re getting close, and staff is in the process of negotiating with the business. I think we’re getting close to a resolution,” Mavodones said Monday.

“It’s a Maine company that’s interested in a place on the waterfront, and 10,000 square feet on the Maine State Pier,” he continued. “This is a business that needs a significant footprint, which isn’t available anywhere else on the waterfront.”

The approximately 90-year-old, city-owned pier was the focus of two competing large-scale redevelopment proposals in 2007, with developers Ocean Properties and The Olympia Cos. each pushing $100 million projects including hotels, office buildings and public space at the site.

The city’s first choice to proceed, The Olympia Cos., backed out after a dispute emerged over whether the city or state retained legal control over the submerged land underneath the pier, and by early 2009, Ocean Properties also walked away in the face of the burgeoning recession.

During the city’s 15-candidate 2011 mayoral campaign, the lack of progress at the Maine State Pier was considered fertile ground for debate among candidates over the direction of the city moving.

The massive transit shed on the pier in recent history has remained “primarily vacant,” Mavodones said, with the city using portions for storage and lobster wholesaler Ready Seafood Co. leasing at least 10,000 square feet.

While Mavodones could not discuss the proposed terms of the new business’ lease, Ready Seafood’s initial three-year lease for the same amount of space, signed in 2009 with extension options, was reportedly for $100,000 per year.

The committee chairman could not discuss in detail the new company’s line of work, either, he said. Mavodones did say the project would not infringe on Ready Seafood’s operation, nor would it encroach on the deep-water berth on the eastern side of the pier considered necessary for the city’s growing cruise-ship traffic.

“I would say it’s an appropriate business for the waterfront in my opinion,” he said. “It would be bringing business, it would be bringing jobs and leaving open future uses for the pier, which I think is exciting – and it would be bringing in revenue to the city.”