A car speeds by the former B&M Baked Bean factory in Portland on Tuesday, Aug. 31. 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Portland City Council has unanimously approved zoning changes that could lead to a new campus for Northeastern University’s Roux Institute on the site of the former B&M Baked Bean factory.

The council approved several zoning changes on Monday, including creating a new “institutional overlay zone” on the former factory site to build the campus. The plan could include academic buildings, offices, hotels and housing.

Education and business leaders say the campus could be a catalyst for the local and state economy.

Portland Councilor Andrew Zarro said that despite outstanding questions, the project is a step forward toward the city’s goals of housing and innovation.

“I am committed to working with my constituents, and my neighbors, and I’m committed to doing the same with potential new neighbors in the community. And holding each other accountable and making sure that everyone has a seat at the table,” Zarro said.

And Gov. Janet Mills described Northeastern’s project as “perhaps the largest investment in Maine’s innovation economy in a generation.”

But the project has faced questions from neighbors concerned about traffic and transportation.

Former councilor Cheryl Lehman said many neighbors still have major questions about how the development will impact those things.

“Just let me say, we feel we are left with more questions than answers. And we ask the city council to be our voice,” Lehman said.

City councilors acknowledged those concerns, but said they trusted in the city’s processes to answer those questions moving forward.

Any individual buildings on the site will still need to go before the city’s planning board and comply with many standards, including those related to traffic and transportation.

The council also approved an amendment to add more local representatives to an advisory board for the project.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.