Those changes would allow the Roux Institute to proceed with construction for its future campus.
Artist rendering of the proposed Roux Institute campus at the former B&M Baked Beans property in Portland. Credit: Courtesy of the Institute for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences

The Portland Planning Board is recommending several zoning changes in the area near the former B&M Baked Bean factory to allow for construction of the campus of Northeastern University’s Roux Institute, giving a major boost to the project.

The project could eventually include housing, retail, offices and academic and research space for more than 1,700 students within five years.

But the proposal has faced pushback from its neighbors for its density, building height and potential impacts on local traffic.

The board’s vice chair, Brandon Mazer, said Tuesday that many of the details will be sorted out as the city reviews specific building projects on the site, but he supports the general vision.

“This is a big deal. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the city. And I think we need to embrace that. Understanding that it’s a long road, and there’ll be a lot of deliberation in the future,” Mazer said.

For months, developers have met with the Planning Board and community members, and reduced the project’s overall footprint in response. While many residents support the plan, some neighbors, such as former Portland mayor Cheryl Leeman, still have questions about its impact.

“We are very concerned about the lingering issues that have not been sufficiently addressed, especially traffic,” Leeman said.

The recommended changes will next head to the Portland City Council.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.