Portland agrees to sell property to help advance high-profile Thompson’s Point project

Portland's Thompson's Point is the site of a proposed $100 million development that will include two office buildings, a sports arena and a hotel.
Portland's Thompson's Point is the site of a proposed $100 million development that will include two office buildings, a sports arena and a hotel. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 21, 2013, at 8:49 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 22, 2013, at 7:25 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland city councilors agreed on Monday night to sell three acres to developers working on the long-awaited Thompson’s Point project, a step seen as necessary in helping the $100-plus-million multi-use development advance.

In a series of moves at its Monday night meeting, the Portland council sold approximately three acres of city property on Riverside Street to Thompson’s Point Development Co. Inc. for $285,000, and then gave first reading to proposed changes to a tax deal with the developers that would reroute nearly $33 million in new property tax revenues over 30 years back into the project.

Combined, the moves allow the developers to relocate Suburban Propane from the high-value Thompson’s Point lot to the Riverside Street property — clearing the way for an event center and parking garage.

The $105 million project, known as the Forefront at Thompson’s Point, will also include two office buildings, at least one restaurant, a sports medicine lab and a hotel, among other things.

The tax increment financing deal — commonly known by the acronym TIF — which must be finally approved by the council next month, would replace a similar arrangement passed two years ago. The updated TIF includes an altered footprint to include the three-acre parcel currently occupied by Suburban Propane, but doesn’t change the financial aspects of the agreement.

Over the 30-year life of the TIF, $32.8 million in new property tax revenues from the first — and largest — phase of the project will be redirected back to the developers, while another nearly $15.3 million would be earmarked for the city to spend on transportation infrastructure, and almost $13 million in tax money will be absorbed by the city’s general fund.

The high-profile Thompson’s Point project is seen as a major change for one of the city’s most recognizable properties, a 25-acre Fore River peninsula that serves as Portland’s welcome mat to highway drivers from the south.

The project was first unveiled by developers more than two years ago and was approved by the Planning Board in June 2012, but little progress on the ambitious project has been publicly perceptible. Initial plans for a concert venue at the site have been dropped and a sports arena — which would eventually house the city’s professional basketball team, the Maine Red Claws — has been pushed back to a later phase of the development.

In August, the startup Circus Conservatory of America — billed as the nation’s first college of the circus arts — was named an anchor tenant for the project alongside the Red Claws, a Developmental League affiliate of the Boston Celtics.

A real estate broker involved with the sale of the site has said a tenant has also been lined up for one of the office buildings — a 175,00-square-foot structure — in the project, but he has declined to identify the tenant by name.

According to a report by economist Chuck Lawton of the research group Planning Decisions, the project when completed will generate $31.3 million in new annual sales for Maine businesses, 455 permanent jobs and $11 million in yearly wages. During construction, the development will additionally support 1,230 jobs and $49 million in wages.

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