Northland working to ease Portland housing crunch

Portland, Maine has a new mayor, and in case you missed it, Mayor Ethan Strimling says he wants to permit 2,000 new housing units within the next 5 years. Wow — ambitious! A big part of the need, according to an excellent series recently published by the Portland Press Herald, is reasonably priced rental units. (See “Welcome to Portland — NO VACANCY.”)

Northland will soon be contributing to the mayor’s effort, in a building we will be re-developing at 443 Congress Street. We’ll be adding about 30 reasonably priced apartments to the city’s housing stock. Reporter Ed Murphy, as part of the Press Herald’s recent series, interviewed Northland partner Josh Benthien:

Developer who experienced housing problem now turning offices into apartments

Story by Edward D. Murphy/ Staff Writer

Josh Benthien knows the difficulty in finding housing in downtown Portland for middle-income earners, a lesson he learned first-hand even before the market overheated in recent years.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 1.13.25 PMBenthien moved from New York City to Portland in 2006 and, after living in Manhattan, he wanted to find a place in a downtown setting. He went apartment-hunting on the peninsula, which turned into a longer and more difficult process than he had anticipated.

He found there was housing for low-income people, but he earned too much to qualify. And, of course, there would have been no problem finding a place if he made a lot more money.

“The pricing just felt like there was no in-between,” said Benthien, who is now a partner at Northland Enterprises, a Portland-based development company.

It’s a problem that has only grown since Benthien last went apartment-hunting. And he and others worry that it could stifle Portland’s economic development, making it harder for companies to attract new employees and keep the ones they have.

Benthien said his experience factored into Northland Enterprises’ recent decision to convert the upper floors of the Clapp Memorial Building, a 1920s-era, seven-story office tower diagonally across from Monument Square, into apartments. The space had been offices until this summer, when a major tenant decided to move in search of more room.

He said the units – mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, but with a handful of two-bedroom apartments possible – will be “reasonably priced, market-rate apartments.” Studios and one-bedrooms will rent for about $1,200 a month, heat included.

A few years ago, Northland bought a building on Shepley Street, which is downtown and not far from the Maine College of Art. Some of the units were leased to MECA for student housing, Benthien said, but the rest were advertised online and quickly rented out. “People were clamoring to live there. So we knew that there was something in the market that wasn’t being met,” he said.

A waiting list has already been started for the Clapp building, where apartments are expected to be available sometime in 2016, he said.

Benthien said the company hopes to accomplish three things by converting office space to apartments: fill a need, make money and help bring more people downtown.

“It feels good for a couple of reasons,” he said, and “it really hit home for me. When I moved here I remember walking down Congress Street at times and saying, ‘Where is everybody?’ ”

Portland firm wins national award for enviro clean-up & redevelopment

commercial real estate Sanford Maine

Northland Enterprises won a Phoenix Award, along with the City of Sanford, for excellence in brownfield redevelopment.

(Portland, Maine) The redevelopment of an abandoned mill building in Sanford, Maine won national recognition in September, with a Phoenix Award going to Northland Enterprises of Portland for outstanding execution in cleaning up a former brownfield site and transforming it into a significant community asset.

Standing in for Northland Enterprises in Chicago were Sanford city manager Steve Buck, city planner Jim Gulnac and Jim Nimon, executive director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council. The awards ceremony was part of the National Brownfields Training Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and attracting government and business leaders throughout the nation. Northland’s work on the Sanford Mill was completed in August of 2013, and redevelopment from the beginning of the project was in close cooperation with city officials. Gulnac paid tribute to the public/private partnership with Northland.

“In the business of brownfield redevelopment, this is like winning the Oscar,” Gulnac said. “Northland’s participation far exceeded their huge financial contribution. They were patient and persistent, considering all the bureaucratic red tape, and they were ‘all in’ from the start of the project. This was a great partnership.”

The redevelopment of Sanford Mill took seven years from start to finish, according to Josh Benthien, a partner at Northland Enterprises. Located at 61 Washington Street, Sanford Mill is a mixed-use development that includes both residential units, as well as office and retail space. It’s part of the Sanford Mill Historic District, and is the nearest mill building to the center of the city’s downtown. Benthien said that of the $12 million invested in the project, nearly $11 million went to Maine-based contractors and companies. Benthien and business partner Rex Bell commented on the Sanford Mill project in a YouTube video published earlier this summer.

Northland Enterprises also contributed $10,000 earlier this year to help with infrastructure and landscaping needs at Gateway Park. The park is an approximately 1-acre parcel that allows citizens to enjoy an overlook and waterfall near Number One Pond and the Mousam River, at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Washington Street.

Northland hires Conor Beliveau

Northland Development hires Conor Beliveau

Conor Beliveau, our new Development Officer, is a great addition to the Northland team!

(Portland, Maine) Conor Beliveau has joined Northland Enterprises as a Development Officer.

Beliveau joins the Northland team having previously worked as the marketing director at a commercial mill property in southern Maine. He is a licensed real estate broker. At Northland, Beliveau will participate deal structuring and underwriting, acquisitions, marketing, and tenant relations.

A Maine native, Beliveau has also worked as a commercial fisherman and an organic farmer. He is an avid athlete and outdoorsman who enjoys telemark skiing, surfing, tennis, ultimate Frisbee and other pursuits.

Use of park signals completion of Sanford Mill project

Public using Gateway Park, symbol of collaboration between developer & city

(Sanford, Maine) Developers Josh Benthien and Rex Bell issued a video news release yesterday, marking official completion of the Sanford Mill redevelopment project.

They also revealed that the downtown redevelopment project enabling the construction of newly-opened Gateway Park is contending for a national award, recognizing the significant environmental clean-up completed at a former industrial mill. (CLICK HERE for link to video press release from Josh Benthien and Rex Bell, partners at Northland Enterprises.)

The redevelopment of Sanford Mill took seven years from start to finish, according Benthien. Located at 61 Washington Street, Sanford Mill is a mixed use development that includes both residential units, as well as office and retail space. It’s part of the Sanford Mill Historic District, and is the nearest mill building to the center of the city’s downtown. Benthien said that of the $12 million invested in the project, nearly $11 million went to Maine-based contractors and companies.

As part of the redevelopment, Northland Enterprises also contributed $10,000 earlier this year to help with infrastructure and landscaping needs at Gateway Park, which the Sanford News recently described as “evidence of a revitalizing downtown Sanford.” The park is an approximately 1-acre parcel that allows citizens to enjoy an overlook and waterfall near Number One Pond and the Mousam River, at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Washington Street.

Bell gave high marks to Sanford’s economic development officials, calling them “innovative” and willing to explore “creative ways to make this project work.”

Northland Enterprises was founded in 2001. It is a commercial real estate development company that believes highest and best use of properties is good for communities, tenants and investors.

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Pungent but perceptive observation about Portland, ME

commercial real estate development Portland Maine

Press Herald reporter Tom Bell joked that anti-growth forces are on the lookout for editorial writer Greg Kesich.

On a recent Facebook post, Portland Press Herald reporter Tom Bell wrote an amusing faux headline, after his paper’s editor wrote a column about growth in the city of Portland, Maine.

“Liberal editorial writer goes into hiding after pro-growth screed offends everyone but Ed Suslovic.”

Suslovic is a city councilor, of course. And while Bell was exaggerating, he did manage to put his finger on, and amplify, the central point that editorial writer Greg Kesich wanted to make: “Not changing is not one of your choices.” Bell’s comment recognizes how emotional some factions are about growth. In fact, so strident are they that many do not want Portland to change or grow at all. They like things exactly the way they are, thank you very much; hence Bell’s “headline.”

The Kesich column, “Residents of Portland have to get past their aversion to growth” is right on the money, in our opinion. Kesich also made excellent points back in December, when he wrote, “Not building a city doesn’t just happen – you have to work at it.

When we go to work at Northland every day, we try to honor the essence of every municipality in which we work, and make it better. For example, we were able to do this this very successfully with our Sanford Mill project and The Baxter Library project in Portland. Those who are passionate about what is “right” for a city certainly deserve respect for their point of view. But so do those who agree with Kesich. Because no place on earth can ever be better without change.

The lighter side of commercial real estate development in Portland, ME

Greg Kesich is the editorial writer at the Portland Press Herald

Greg Kesich made us laugh with a recent column he wrote for the Portland Press Herald.

Usually commercial real estate is a pretty straightforward business, but sometimes we do get a good chuckle along the way. Like when we read this recent column by columnist Greg Kesich at the Portland Press Herald.

As developers of some of the finest commercial real estate projects in Maine and beyond, Northland Enterprises brings an extraordinarily high level of professionalism and competence to all our work, from concept and design all the way through to execution and completion. Representative projects include the redevelopment of the Baxter Library in Portland, our Sanford Mill restoration, and the re-purposing of the former Kennebec Journal building in Augusta. In each and every case, part of the job is attending many meetings; meeting of select boards, planning boards, city councils, town councils, zoning boards and public hearings. That’s why this Kesich’s column caught our eye. With tongue firmly in cheek, he very effectively captured the many hurdles that confront even the most routine and straightforward commercial real estate project.

He was only writing about Portland, Maine, but the phenomenon to which he refers is what we encounter in municipalities all across the Northeast. And while we think he made an humorous point, Northland actually values the governmental and regulatory processes into which we enter every time we build a project and contribute to economic development. Almost without exception, the process of oversight and review helps us build better projects — which is good for everyone.

How to Move up from 50th on Forbes List

Peter Van Allen’s piece from the most recent edition of Maine Biz articulates nicely why Maine doesn’t deserve it’s bottom dwelling position on Forbes magazine’s ranking of business friendly states. Northland partner Josh Benthien (a panelist at the recent MEREDA conference) aptly points out that in the commercial real estate sector, occupancy rates are high and do not suggest the kind of weak economy one might expect being ranked #50 in Forbes annual report. Couple that with the hard-working ethos of Maine workers and our vast natural resources and we might just have a winning formula for a brighter economic future. The entire article can be found at the below link.

http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20140602/CURRENTEDITION/305299999

Northland makes it to 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi!

IMG_1520

Signe Jordan (above) holds Northland sign at 2014 Sochi Olympic games.

Congratulations to all USA Winter Olympians
who made it to Sochi! Northland is proud
to be a sponsor of the USA Ski
Jumping Team!

 

 

 

 

 

In Sanford, no-run-of-the-mill success

Officials celebrate a public-private effort that helped restore the historic Sanford Mill and attract tenants.


Read More

Northland wins award for Sanford Mill renovation

Sanford News, Thursday, November 28, 2013

PORTLAND — At an event hosted by Maine Preservation, Northland Enterprises received its second statewide historic preservation award in three years for the successful, nationally recognized completion of its $11.5 million, 66,500-square-foot Sanford Mill development at 61 Washington Street in Sanford. Read More