PORTLAND, Maine — The city of Portland this week finalized deals with two companies to expand on the Maine State Pier, steeply increasing business activity at a waterfront site still remembered for two massive development proposals that failed in recent years.
Lobster processing company Shucks Maine Lobster will set up shop on the pier, and current tenant Ready Seafood Co. will more than double its footprint at the site, after the Portland City Council on Monday unanimously approved new leases for both.
Shucks has agreed with the city to lease nearly 19,000 square feet in the former municipal transit shed on the pier, which has been largely vacant in recent history. Shucks, which is currently headquartered in Richmond, will have a 15-year lease in the Portland location starting in January 2014.
The processing firm will pay the city $202,100 for the space in its first year and face 2 percent annual increases each year of the lease thereafter.
John Hathaway, CEO of Shucks Maine Lobster, told the Bangor Daily News in June that the company would hire nine full-time and 60 part-time seasonal employees at its Portland location.. The company’s peak hiring season is from May until January, he said.
The cost to get the Portland facility up and running would be more than $2 million, including slightly more than $1 million to retrofit the space and another $1 million or so for the necessary equipment, Hathaway said.
Shucks currently employs between 65 and 70 mostly part-time seasonal workers at its current processing facility in Richmond, Hathaway said. The new Portland location would be in addition to its existing operations, Hathaway said.
Ready Seafood, a lobster wholesaler, since 2009 has occupied between 9,676 square feet and 11,200 square feet of the facility. With its latest lease agreement, the company will expand that operation to a total of approximately 24,000 square feet. The new lease will add $258,000 in annual rental payments to the city, above the nearly $120,000 the company had already been paying for its 11,200 square feet.
Like Shucks, Ready will face annual rent increases of 2 percent during the life of its lease, which has now been extended to Dec. 31, 2017.
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 Companies each pushing $100 million projects including hotels, office buildings and public space at the site. The city’s first choice to proceed, The Olympia Companies backed out after a dispute emerged over whether the city or state retained legal control over the submerged land underneath the pier.
By early 2009, Ocean Properties also walked away in the face of the burgeoning recession and resultant market drop-off.
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 forward.
BDN Business Editor Whit Richardson contributed to this report.