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Portland, Maine's future, urban growth and development, housing development, workforce development, urban design


In the 400 years since European settlement, Portland has survived the ravages of war, invasion, pestilence, conflagration, and economic depression and recession. Once a renowned manufacturing, trade, and shipping center, it now enjoys what might be called a post-industrial renaissance as a vibrant center for the arts, education, entertainment, and banking, legal, and medical services; and is frequently cited as one of America’s best small cities. As a result, Portland is growing today and is positioned for more growth.

The question, then, is not whether Portland will grow, but how well it will grow; or, how best to manage the growth that is now certain to come. Over the past six months Creative Portland, the Muskie School, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Portland Society for Architecture have collaborated to explore these questions. We find that successful cities today offer vast opportunity for employment and upward mobility, accommodate diverse peoples of all incomes and social classes, and ensure the availability of shelter, affordable to all.

We conclude, first, that Portland today faces not one but two great challenges, workforce development and housing. Second, if Portland is to sustain its current prosperity and fulfill its vital economic role for all Maine, it must grow its workforce, broaden its property tax base, strengthen its schooling, expand its public transit, and – most importantly – create more housing and commerce along major thoroughfares and in select neighborhood centers on and off the peninsula. Third, if Portland is to retain and expand its attractiveness as a city, it must pay careful attention throughout to the matter of good urban design, learning from other successful cities.


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Paper prepared in collaboration with John Dorrer, formerly of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, and Ryan Wallace, Maine Center for Business & Economic Research.

The companion video "The New Allure of the City (and Some Unanticipated Consequences)" provides further context. The UNE Center for Global Humanities and its founding director, Anouar Majid, host keynote speaker Alex Krieger. The discussion opens with Patrick Costin, current President of Portland Society for Architecture. This talk expands upon a program hosted at USM in 2015, "The Challenge of Change: Are We Loving Portland to Death?"

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