Aroma Joe’s Coffee Chain Buys Plot in Portland Technology Park – Community News
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Aroma Joe’s Coffee Chain Buys Plot in Portland Technology Park

Aroma Joe’s, a regional coffee shop company based in South Portland, may become the second company to set up shop in Portland Technology Park, nearly a decade after the city office was established.

The Portland City Council will review a proposed $595,000 sale of nearly 3 acres in the park on the west side of the city, adjacent to Interstate 95, on Monday.

Barista Erika Sillon serves customers at Aroma Joe’s in South Portland in 2020. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/staff photographer

In a sale, the city would have to spend at least $662,760 to extend a road and utility lines to the two development lots that Aroma Joe’s plans to purchase.

Opened in 2013, Portland Technology Park has been marketed as a location to expand a growing biotechnology and life sciences industry in southern Maine. Until now, only insurance company Patrons Oxford has built an office there. The company moved from Auburn in 2017.

“We knew we had a growing life science cluster in Maine and in the Greater Portland area and thought it would be a great location for those types of businesses to grow. It just hasn’t turned out to be the case,” said Nelle Hanig, corporate programs manager in Portland’s Housing and Economic Development Department.

The park has no office space to rent, and growing tech companies sometimes lack the resources to invest in new buildings, Hanig said.

“If you don’t have the resources to build a building, you wouldn’t be able to come to Portland Technology Park right now,” she said. “That kicks a lot of smaller companies and biotechs (that) might want to come to a park like this.”

In other cases, the space available for new buildings in the park, ranging from 10,000 to 35,000 square feet, is not large enough for established companies expecting substantial growth.

A planned sale of a unit in the park to Portland biotech company Capricorn Products fell through after the company was bought and the new owner decided not to expand in Maine, Hanig said.

But the park’s proximity to the highway proved attractive to Patrons Oxford, and now to Aroma Joe’s.

“Aroma Joe’s likes the idea (that) it’s a moment off the highway — they’re going to have people from all over and people who have their offices there,” she said.

A sale would mean the city would have to pay to extend the road and utilities to the company’s newly purchased land. The estimated cost of nearly $663,000 could be paid for through the proceeds of the sale and an allocation from the city’s capital improvement program, the economic development department wrote in a memo to the city council.

“It will cost us the difference to build the road, but we get a tax advantage from this; it will create new jobs,” Hanig said.

The city estimates that Aroma Joe’s will pay $21,000 a year in property taxes in the new headquarters.

Loren Goodridge, CEO of Aroma Joe, said in an interview last month that the growing company has moved out of its Warren Avenue offices and is subletting offices in South Portland until it builds a new headquarters. The company, which franchises drive-thru coffee shops, has about 19 employees.

The technology park’s location appealed to Aroma Joe’s, Goodridge said.

It’s near the company’s existing offices on Warren Avenue so employees don’t have to change their commute, Goodridge said. It is right off I-95 and also close to the Portland International Jetport.

“We have franchisees coming from all over the country for training and we wanted their commute to be easy,” he said.

Aroma Joe’s hopes to complete the building by 2023 and expects to have 35 employees in the new offices.

According to the city, the new building will be approximately 12,000 square meters in size. If the sale is approved, four units in the park will remain on the market.

“I think the preference will always be for quality jobs, so if a biotech company comes along, it will create jobs for scientists and manufacturing and management positions that would be highly valued by the city,” Hanig said. “Admittedly, this has been slow going, it wasn’t an easy site to develop.”

The challenge of building on the Portland site is one of the main reasons the technology park has struggled to attract developers, Goodridge said. Marine clay is the dominant soil type on the site, requiring more expensive and complicated foundations.

“If you had a normal piece of land, maybe you wouldn’t have that problem,” he said. “You can’t just build on marine clay.”


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