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BELFAST CITY COUNCIL ENDORSES BROWNFIELDS REVITALIZATION STUDY, DEMONSTRATING A STRONG FUTURE FOR BUSINESS INVESTMENT
The Brownfields Revitalization Study lays out a roadmap for future development in and revitalization of the City.
BELFAST, MAINE- Over the past ten years, the City of Belfast has seen significant growth and investment in its downtown, but significant opportunities still remain, according to a recent study. The City of Belfast remains focused on economic development, including attracting additional investment, developing a robust skilled workforce, retaining its current businesses, and attracting additional innovative businesses, while maintaining the charms of its downtown and the access to its waterfront.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Belfast contracted with Camoin Associates to study opportunities that would support economic development and revitalization efforts primarily within the City’s roughly 77-acre downtown and waterfront area. The recently completed Brownfields Revitalization Study identifies opportunities for growth amongst various real estate development options, such as housing, retail businesses, lodging, and light industrial/flex space.
“This kind of market analysis can help the private sector in legwork from this study to conceptualize next steps and come up with the cultural guidance,” remarked Belfast City Councilor Neal Harkness. “The study shows that there are multiple types of opportunities for investment.”
Belfast Mayor Eric Sanders commented on the results of the study, saying “Belfast is a unique place that has coastal downtown accessible, walkable, real experiences with opportunities for retail development, which gives a lot of promise for sound economic investment.”
The Brownfields Revitalization Study revealed five indicators that speak to Belfast’s potential future economic prosperity and growth:
1. Belfast’s downtown and waterfront area could absorb a total of at least 150 new multifamily housing units over the next five years;
2. 97% of the properties included in this study could accommodate additional space (a total of more than 2.4 million square feet) under current zoning regulations;
3. 80% of all jobs that are located in Belfast are filled by those commuting from outside of Belfast;
4. Since 2010, Belfast’s population has increased by 6%; and
5. Future market demand for industrial/flex spaces will be driven by industrial businesses such as small-scale and micro-producers, beverage manufacturing, and specialty foods manufacturing.
The economic demand is there, Belfast just needs workforce housing,” Belfast City Councilor Paul Dean said. “Belfast is importing people, which is a great sign.”
Belfast City Councilor Brenda Bonneville, also an owner of a downtown small business, stated, “I was excited to see that people were hunkering down and buying locally during the pandemic. This was interesting and unexpected. We can keep these observations in our back pocket moving forward. This study fortifies the strength of the local economy.”
In parallel with the development of this study, the City worked with the consultant Vita Nuova, under a program funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Community Development, to raise awareness of and maximize the use of the City’s Opportunity Zone designation, which it obtained in 2018. The primary output of this effort was the development of an investment prospectus, which highlighted specific real estate investment opportunities and which was shared with a number of Opportunity Zone funds.
The City of Belfast continued its collaboration with Camoin Associates, by having them build upon the efforts of the Brownfields Revitalization Study in developing a Community Revitalization Plan. The goal of this plan was to provide policy and project recommendations for two areas of the City: the aforementioned downtown and waterfront area; and for a cluster of parcels located between Congress Street and U.S. Route 1. The Community Revitalization Plan was, like the Brownfields Revitalization Study, formally adopted by the Belfast City Council.
Finally, there is the opportunity to align the opportunities, recommendations, and findings from the Brownfields Revitalization Study, the Opportunity Zone prospectus, and the Community Revitalization Plan with the recommended actions that are found in the State’s long-term economic development plan, the 2020-2029 Maine Economic Development Strategy.
Brownfields Revitalization Study