Bayside Gets Closer to Tech Hub in Public Services Buildings

Tom Blackburn, Chair of Creative Space, at a Meeting Last Year.

Tom Blackburn, Chair of Creative Space, at a Meeting Last Year.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,710)

Portland leaders have been trying to attract young professionals and entrepreneurs with technical skills, including artists, to this City for a long time now.  In a city where the youthful population has not increased in years while the number of seniors has increased significantly,  it’s important to take steps to provide incentives to attract a younger generation of skilled workers. To accomplish this goal, lots of pieces of a puzzle need to fall into place all at the same time.  One of those pieces may be about to happen said Tom Blackburn, chair of Creative Space, a spin-off of Creative Portland, in a telephone conversation this afternoon.

Creative Space, is a non-profit sub-committee that was formed several years ago  to explore and negotiate opportunities to develop creative spaces in a private environment without the glare of the public and the press. It was set-up by Creative Portland with Tom Blackburn as its chair. The matter has intentionally been kept under wraps and away from  public scrutiny until today when it broke in another publication.

There are many questions yet to be answered Blackburn emphasized. It’s far from a done deal, although he acknowledges he’s been working on the concept of a tech hub in the Bayside area for about a year.  “We still have questions that need answers,” Blackburn said, the owner of Maine Constructions Services, Portland.

The first question is:  Would a PACE (“Portland Arts and Creative Enterprise”) Center be appropriate in two of the to be vacated Public Services Buildings on Hanover Street? And who would be the partners in such a facility?  Blackburn hopes to partner with the city as well as academic institutions in Portland.  The University of Southern Maine, Portland,  has expressed interest in the PACE center.  He hopes that the city would be willing to invest this land and  two current public service buildings as its contribution to make this Center happen. Is this the highest and best interest for these two buildings.   Blackburn, a tireless advocate for the creative community, says the answer is yes.  To this end, Blackburn said his sub-committee, Creative Space, will be submitting a report to the city by the end of this June.

Meanwhile, the city is considering this week leasing property on Canco Road to which the Public Services facility located at 65 Hanover Street could be relocated as early as this fall.  The other of the two buildings, known as the General Store, is looking at a move about two years out.  Both facilities have outgrown their spaces in Bayside.  But this piece needs to fall into place before a tech hub in Bayside becomes the next piece to fall into place.

“I’m  excited about this center and look forward to working with our partners to make it come true,” said Blackburn.