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Portland officials recommend zoning changes to allow for construction of Roux Institute campus

artist interpretation.JPG
Feb 2022 Institutional Development Plan
Artist interpretation of the Institute for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences' 20-year redevelopment plan to turn the 13.5-acre former B&M property into a high-tech graduate school and research center for the Roux Institute at Northeastern University.

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 some local residents for its density, building height, and potential impacts on local traffic.

The planning 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 have reduced the project's overall footprint in response. While many residents support the plan, some neighbors, such as former Portland mayor Cheryl Leeman, say questions remain about its local impact.

"We are very concerned about the lingering issues that haven not been sufficiently addressed, especially traffic," Leeman said.

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