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New Construction Transforming Run-Down Portland, Maine, Neighborhood Into Destination

Tue June 04, 2024 - Northeast Edition
Portland Press Herald & Waypoint Brokers Collective

One new development is the Daymark building, a high rise with 54 mixed-use units, mostly one-to-two-bedroom condominiums, designed around impressive, shared amenities for community-focused living.
Rendering courtesy of Waypoint Brokers Collective
One new development is the Daymark building, a high rise with 54 mixed-use units, mostly one-to-two-bedroom condominiums, designed around impressive, shared amenities for community-focused living.

In Portland, Maine, Bayside has always been a neighborhood in transformation: from industrial center in service to the city's growth, to central hub providing essential services for its most vulnerable populations, to now a vibrant, mixed-use community offering urban lifestyle amenities.

As a residential neighborhood, Bayside has a shorter history than the rest of Portland. Until the 1800s, the area was under water before developers and builders started filling the area with dirt and materials from other projects throughout the city, including debris from the Great Fire of 1866.

The area ended up playing a crucial role in Portland's economic growth during the early to mid-20th century, according to the Press Herald. The central landscape presented a convenient location for the utilitarian infrastructure needed to run the city: manufacturing, scrap, the rail yard and lumber. It also became home to the immigrant and migrant labor populations that worked those industries.

In time, as industry moved out of Portland, the city took the opportunity to tear up much of the neighborhood, build Franklin Arterial, a connector road between Interstate 295 and the city's waterfront, and fill other parts with social services, including a centralized shelter for the unhoused. This has largely characterized Bayside in recent years.

It is now recognized that Portland's division of the neighborhood and dense clustering of services in one small area, rather than a more distributed approach across the city, created challenges and disparities for the population already living in Bayside — a practice that is today called "discriminatory zoning."

The Portland Press Herald reported June 2 that in an effort to revitalize those disparities, Portland municipal officials recently made a controversial decision to relocate its largest facility, an emergency shelter, off the peninsula, while keeping the smaller family and teen shelters there in place. The aim was to balance redevelopment for existing and future residents with the needs of the city's most vulnerable unhoused.

Another Run-Down Neighborhood Reborn

The evolution of Bayside is a common narrative in urban growth and development, according to the Portland news source. It is reminiscent of other abandoned, industrial neighborhoods revitalized as robust residential communities, like Soho in New York City.

Closer to home is the change seen in Portland's Munjoy Hill over the last two decades.

Like that neighborhood 15 years ago, Bayside development and real estate values are on the upswing. But unlike Munjoy Hill, the redevelopment of Bayside has been carefully planned between the city, local nonprofits and existing residents. Together, they are trying to responsibly meet the demand of new neighbors attracted to Bayside for its convenient location between the Old Port and Back Cove, two of the city's prime attractions.

In 2024, visitors come to Bayside for breweries, restaurants, art venues, their favorite Pilates studios, bakeries, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

As the true mark of a changing neighborhood, though, Bayside has attracted sleek, newly-built condominium developments.

However, in this new housing you can observe the tug between Bayside's history and its future: sale prices are more accessible than comparable units in neighboring Old Port or over in Munjoy Hill, by attracting buyers in search of opportunity and value.

Daymark Indicative of Bayside's Transformation

One new development is the Daymark building, a high rise with 54 mixed-use units, mostly one-to-two-bedroom condominiums, designed around impressive, shared amenities for community-focused living.

Before Daymark was built, the lot was vacant and overgrown; today, though, as units sell and new residents move in, it is a blossoming community with diverse neighbors from all over Maine, throughout the country, and across the globe, the Press Herald noted.

Units in Daymark are listed for sale by Nova Tower and Tyson Wilkins of Waypoint Brokers Collective in Portland.

Wilkins noted that the people who buy in Daymark are attracted to the neighborhood for its mix of old and new.

"They love all the new business in the area, [and] how close it is to the Old Port and Munjoy Hill," he told the newspaper. "They are very aware that this is a neighborhood with exciting growth happening. It's a big part of why they buy here."

In speaking with the Press Herald, Tower talked about the changing lifestyle in Bayside.

"When I first moved to Portland 16 years ago, I didn't find myself in Bayside often, maybe once or twice a year, to go to the Portland Architectural Salvage," she recalled. "Then there was Bayside Bowl and suddenly we were down here a lot. After that, it was one thing after the next: restaurant patios, events at our friend's art studio, our favorite stores, my bank. Bayside is now a regular date night destination for us."

She added that investment from the business community eventually attracted developers to build condos, "because people wanted to be here."

Still, there are always challenges to a changing neighborhood, something which the active Bayside Neighborhood Association summarizes well on its website: "There are unique opportunities in Bayside for community investment, growth and placemaking, and challenges in preserving its affordability and identity."

The association maintains the city's only neighborhood run community garden, across the street from Daymark.

"Hopefully, we can seize these opportunities while meeting those challenges with the Bayside Master Development Plan, a comprehensive redevelopment plan expected to be completed over the next 10 years or so," Waypoint Brokers Collective said in a news release. "The plan is focused on sustainability and inclusivity, transforming vacant and underutilized lots into more than 800 new mixed-use rental units. Most of them will be market rate, but a quarter of them will be allocated as affordable units for residents making up to 80 percent of the area median income. It will further include people-centered features like artful pedestrian walkways, green spaces, outdoor dining capacity, and more.

"Transformation is the one certain trajectory for the future of Bayside, according to the development company. "With some reflection on its origins and evolution, Bayside can grow into an exciting, accessible neighborhood for a diverse population of residents and businesses."

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