Portland city councilors held a workshop about the proposed Roux Institute campus on Monday, preceding a vote in February on the proposed map and text amendments.
The workshop gave councilors their first opportunity to discuss the proposed development from the Initiative for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences, which aims to build a graduate-level college campus, student and faculty housing, hotel, restaurants and other services at the former B&M baked bean factory.
The Council will have a first reading on the zoning requests on Jan. 18, ahead of a Feb. 6 vote.
Councilors focused on the potential for new housing from the Roux Institute, as city staff estimated this will create between 175 and 250 new units of housing in the neighborhood, and as many as 650 units in the following two decades.
Councilor Regina Phillips asked if any of those units would be affordable housing.
“When we look at housing, we have to ask who can move into that area,” she said.
Christine Grimando, the city’s director of planning and urban development, said that any new housing in the area would have to adhere to inclusionary zoning regulations. Inclusionary zoning requires new housing developments of a certain size to create workforce housing or contribute a fee toward the city’s housing fund.
Chris Mallett, chief administrative officer for the Roux Institute, said they believe that on-site housing units would reduce traffic in and out of the site, as students and faculty could live there and not have to commute in.
“It’s important our project has housing,” he said.
The zoning requests were recently approved by the Planning Board, which would change the area’s zoning from moderate-impact industrial to a mixed-use designation that allows residential, office, retail and restaurant use.
IDEALS have been seeking a change from the current I-M zoning designation to the B-5 to allow for a broader range of uses, including residential. The Council would also have to approve an institutional overlay zone, which would regulate and allow for future growth of the 13-acre campus.
Some councilors brought up the effects of the Dec. 23 storm, which flooded parts of the property slated for the build. Sam Reiche, the chief operating officer for IDEALS, said they “were aware” of the flooding, and have discussed it with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Reiche said that new buildings will be at a higher high tide elevation rate.
A scientist from GMRI declined to comment specifically on the potential for flooding at the proposed Roux Institute campus.
After the Dec. 23 storm, a neighborhood group called East Deering Neighbors for Responsible Development circulated images of the flooding to members of the press, citing it as another point of concern. The group splintered from the East Deering Neighborhood Association specifically to oppose planned development of the Roux Institute campus.
According to the Roux Institute’s development plan, the campus was designed with the potential for high tides and rising sea levels. That document says that buildings will be constructed “well above the 100-year flood zone” which will “account for rising sea levels and severe weather events.”
The document also claims that there is minimal shoreline buffer at the site, with pavement extending “right up to the armored embankment along much of the shoreline.”