Portland seeks broker to jump-start business park

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PORTLAND — The sound of vehicles on the Maine Turnpike has yet to be supplanted by the hum of industry at the Portland Technology Park off Rand Road.

Yet as the city seeks bids from real estate companies to broker sales for three vacant lots at the site, Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said the purpose of the park remains unchanged.

“I still believe the original vision should be maintained,” Mitchell said April 20. “We are going to test the waters and see who would be interested and how they might approach marketing differently.”

Bids are scheduled to be opened May 3. City records show five companies have asked for information, including the Dunham Group, which markets the lots now.

The scope of services offered by a broker comprises 40 percent of the evaluation criteria. The cost proposal is 35 percent, and bidder experience and qualifications is 25 percent of criteria.

The lots for sale range from 1.3-3.5 acres, priced from $270,000-$600,000, according to a sales brochure. They are part of the first phase of development on 26 acres, where one lot was sold in 2015 to Patrons Oxford, an insurance company that moved from Auburn and opened offices in 2017.

The company did not fit the profile sought for the Technology Park, but Mitchell said the proximity to the Maine Turnpike made the land attractive to the buyers.

The city earned $150,000 from the sale, but also repaid Patrons Oxford $215,000 for the buyer’s cost of extending the public road and utilities, according to a July 2015 amendment to the purchase agreement.

When the first four sites are occupied, a second phase of development on three more lots will begin, according to the RFP.

The technology park concept dates to 2010, and the city broke ground to build the access road and install utility infrastructure in 2013. Funding came from a $1.3 million split of a U.S. Department of Commerce grant and local funds.

On April 19, Justin Lamontagne of the Dunham Group declined to comment on the level of interest from potential buyers for the sites. On April 18, The Forecaster filed a Freedom of Access Act request with the city for the names of parties interested in buying the unoccupied sites.

“At least 12 different companies had made inquires in the last 2-3 years. This would include requests for marketing materials, plans and renderings. Most were Maine-based companies and most were light industrial/manufacturing. A couple were lab/research companies,” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in response to the FOAA on April 27.

Negotiations on land sales can be made in executive session. The city has in the past released names and details of property bidders for sites, including the former city-owned parking lot at Thames and Hancock streets that will become home to WEX, and for the six parcels in Bayside the city sold as it shifted its Public Works Department to Canco Road.

Mitchell said interest does exist for the lots, which offer better potential for biotech or other science-related industries than most properties on the city’s peninsula.

Proximity to the Maine Turnpike and space to build offices, sophisticated manufacturing operations that require government approvals, and warehouses are all components that should lure niche companies, he said.

Amenities also include the potential for a Portland Trails connection, Mitchell added.

Mitchell said biotech company CEOs told the city it needed a corporate business park setting. “It has taken some time to find the right matches,” he said, “but having the sites available will allow us to capture the opportunities.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Updated May to include the April 27 Portland response to the FOAA request made by The Forecaster on April 18.

Patrons Oxford insurance moved its headquarters to the Portland Technology Park last year. It is the only lot sold so far on city land that’s been for sale since 2013.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.