LEWISTON — John Holden is cautiously optimistic about Lewiston-Auburn’s chances for economic development in 2016.
Holden, president of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, gave his forecast Thursday at the annual Maine Real Estate & Development Association conference in Portland.
His task: to recap some of the biggest economic news of 2015 and look ahead to 2016.
“Of course, the biggest of the big projects is the Miracle Enterprises project (in Auburn),” Holden said in an interview Friday. “I actually suggest that was probably the biggest project that was announced in the state of Maine last year at $40 million. It’s new money coming in on health care and other things which have tremendous spinoff effect. It will be significant to the entire Western Maine region.”
A new Hampton Inn across from the Oxford Casino in Oxford, new facilities for Hartt Transportation and the new Woodlands Memory Care of Lewiston were also notable developments for 2015.
Miracle Enterprises and the potential for development around Lewiston’s Exit 80 could both be big factors in 2016, Holden said.
A lot of real estate is changing hands in Lewiston-Auburn, he said, and while that may not signal new business, it is a sign of a healthy economy.
He also expects the area to keep benefiting from an increasingly crowded marketplace in Southern Maine.
In December, office space in greater Lewiston-Auburn was leasing for close to $11 a square foot, $2 less per square foot than the Portland area, and the asking sales price for office space was close to $70 per square foot, $30 less per square foot than Portland, according to the real estate website LoopNet.
Retail space showed similar price trends.
“That wasn’t a pitch, that’s just raw data. You want cheaper leases, cheaper land, come talk to us,” Holden said. “The person that spoke before me talked about how the Portland market is very expensive and out of space. That means a slow, gradual trend for our area.”
Overall for 2016, “it’s not gangbusters, which is a good thing, quite frankly,” he said. “Slow, stable growth is better than exponential growth because it crashes.”
Maine Real Estate & Development Association President Michael O’Reilly said the Lewiston-Auburn area continues to be known for conveniently located industrial space.
“In 2015, Portland and southern Maine saw increased single-family and senior living developments in city centers, following a national trend toward urbanization and desire to live in smaller spaces closer to amenities,” O’Reilly said in a written statement. “We are hopeful to see that same development trend continue to take hold in the Twin Cities in 2016.”