Roux Institute campus rendering
A rendering of the proposed Roux Institute campus on the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory in Portland's East Deering neighborhood. (Courtesy Roux Institute)
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Portland City Councilors unanimously approved zoning requests that would aid in redeveloping the former B&M Baked Beans site into the Roux Institute campus.

The council granted an institutional overlay zone to allow for future growth at the site. Councilors also changed the area’s zoning from moderate-impact industrial to a mixed-use designation that allows residential, office, retail and restaurant use. 

The proposed Roux campus would eventually be home to the Roux Institute — a graduate-level science and technology program that specializes in artificial intelligence and computer sciences — as well as student and faculty housing, a hotel, and other mixed uses to support it. 

The development was brought forward by the Initiative for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences (IDEALS), which has sought to change the current I-M zoning designation to the B-5 to allow for a broader range of uses, including residential.

The Council also received a letter of support for the project from Gov. Janet Mills, who said while she “rarely” provides input on municipal matters, “the Roux Institute project has far-reaching impacts for the entire state and is perhaps the largest investment in Maine’s innovation economy in a generation.”

“The Roux Institute’s Portland campus will expand quality education for graduate students, attract business investment, boost research and development and provide an anchor for life and computer sciences in Maine, complementing the excellent graduate and undergraduate programs in the University of Maine system,” Mills said in a statement last week.

The Council also approved adding neighborhood associations to a community advisory committee that will give feedback to the developers. A neighborhood group, East Deering Neighbors for Responsible Development, had asked the Council that approval be conditional on a transportation demand management plan. East Deering residents have been concerned about how the campus would impact traffic and parking in the neighborhood.

Council approval comes via recommendation from the Planning Board, who approved the same requests in November.

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