Lower-income area reverses decline, with parts in early stage of a renaissance.
The proximity to downtown and relatively low costs make up for negatives during the shift to an urban hotspot.

Norma Gribbin grew up in a house on Greenleaf Street from the time she was 7 or 8 until she got married in the 1950s, she said.

But you couldn’t tell her she was from East Bayside.

“Bayside was Bayside,” Gribbin side in an interview before she died in September at age 86.

As for the neighborhood on the other side of Franklin Street, “We didn’t call it anything,” she said. “It was mostly a junkyard down that way.”

That was before the arrival of Franklin Arterial (now Franklin Street) and Kennedy Park and the cluster of industrial-turned-artisanal businesses that now define the neighborhood – Portland’s up-and-coming hotspot.

As housing on the peninsula becomes increasingly scarce, more people are willing to live in neighborhoods once considered less than desirable in order to be within walking distance of downtown.

East Bayside is poised to be the next big thing.

Adjacent to the already gentrified neighborhood of Munjoy Hill, East Bayside falls between Interstate 295 and Congress Street, from Washington Avenue to Franklin Street.

Packed into the small maze of streets with mostly vinyl-sided houses is the most racially diverse population in the state, with just over half of the residents identifying as white, compared with almost 86 percent of the city’s residents.

A bus pulls off Anderson Street onto Fox Street in East Bayside. The neighborhood was once shunned by many city residents but its proximity to downtown is making it a destination district. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

The neighborhood didn’t set itself apart in terms of racial diversity until the past 20 years.

When Gribbin was growing up, she said, it was full of Irish, Italian and Scandinavian families.

And, even though Munjoy Hill residents weren’t rich themselves, “they looked down on us,” she said. Gribbin remembers her father, a machinist at the Portland Co., paying $16 per month to rent a three-bedroom apartment for their family of eight.

But 30 years of census data shows that the neighborhood didn’t become the poorest in Portland until recently.

According to the 2013 American Community Survey, East Bayside had the lowest median income, at $21,513 annually, less than half that of the city as a whole.

But things are looking up for the neighborhood.

In the middle of Kennedy Park one day last summer, children waited in line outside a room dubbed the study center. Less than 10 years ago, you’d be more likely to see a group of intoxicated teens running about, said Samuel Albino, who has lived in the subsidized housing project since 2005.


Albino, 53, who came from Sudan, remembers having to choose between living in Riverton or Kennedy Park, which had a reputation for more crime but was closer to resources.

He’s happy with his decision and has seen the area greatly improve as a result of community and police involvement. Now soccer games are a more common sight than drug deals.

It’s only been in the past couple of years that East Bayside has become a destination.

Heather Sanborn said that when she and her husband moved Rising Tide Brewing Co. there in 2012, the neighborhood wasn’t “a selling point.”

East Bayside
A man walks on Fox Street in East Bayside. The neighborhood has grown rapidly in recent years, attracting more businesses and residents. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

The proximity to downtown and relatively low cost, however, helped make up for it. Not long after, other manufacturers – including brewers, distillers and coffee roasters – as well as artists and craftsman caught on, too.

Now, the former warehouses they occupy, between Fox Street and Marginal Way, are a destination for residents and visitors looking to try their products and tour their facilities.

Still, most of those patrons aren’t from the neighborhood, Sanborn said.

That could start to change after the construction of a four-story building at the corner of Anderson and Fox streets with 53 market-rate apartments and a restaurant and retail space below.

Sanborn said that when the company moved in three years ago, the only people she saw were walking from Munjoy Hill to Whole Foods.

“We’re really thrilled to have been there and been part of the renaissance of the neighborhood,” she said.

Click and drag the slider to compare photos; Franklin Street at the corner of Cumberland Avenue, looking northwest toward Back Cove. Sept. 1, 2015, photo by Derek Davis/Staff photographer; 1960 Press Herald photograph courtesy of Portland Portland Library Special Collections & Archives (photographer uncredited)


Staff photos by Whitney Hayward

O. Gotti, 25, has lived in the Bayside neighborhood his whole life. He lives alone on Mayo Street and pays $820 a month in rent, which does not include utilities.

“I’ll live here forever,” Gotti said.

Douglas Mpay, 45, lives on the border of Parkside and West Bayside. He works in outreach and enrollment for the Portland Community Health Center. He has lived in Portland for four years, in a two-bedroom apartment for which he pays $1,000 a month in rent, which includes heat but no electricity.

"My neighborhood is a little noisy, but that's not surprising. There's a mixture of people from different cultures, which adds to it," Mpay said. Mpay said he likes his apartment, but his only concern is rising rent ­- it was $900 when he first moved in.

Sandrine Chambert, 45, is from Marseilles, France, and moved here after meeting her husband, who is originally from Kennebunk, in 1999. When the couple moved to Portland, her husband owned an apartment building, and that’s where they lived until about 2011. They decided to buy a house and knew they wanted to live near Munjoy Hill, despite the rising property values there.

"We knew it would be a little difficult, moving near the Hill, and we didn’t know whether we would be buying something to tear it down, or what would make the most sense," Chambert said. They found the right house listed on Craigslist but were vacationing in France at the time and asked the sellers to wait until the couple returned to view the property. They renovated the house, which sits at the edge of the hill in East Bayside, and keep chickens in the backyard.

Tahnee Plummer, 26, is originally from Pennsylvania and moved to Portland with her boyfriend several months ago. She works in construction and gets paid $15 an hour, and her boyfriend also works full time, she said. The couple has enough cash to pay the first and last month of rent for an apartment, she said, but they have not been able to get an apartment and, this summer, lived in a camper parked in the East Bayside neighborhood.

“Our money spends just as well as anyone else’s, but we just need someone to give us a chance,” Plummer said. She also said she suspects landlords are wary of renting to the couple because her boyfriend wears his hair in dreadlocks. She planned to start searching for housing alone so landlords would not make a premature judgment about their reliability in paying rent.

Gerzher A Tessema, 61, who is originally from Ethiopia, has lived in Portland for 25 years. Tessema held a government position in Ethiopia in the late 1970s, during the Red Terror, and was imprisoned and tortured multiple times for speaking and acting against the government. He fled with his wife and child to Sudan, where he went to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and was granted asylum. The embassy flew him to New York City, and his family came to live in Maine. Tessema now owns his house and has a mortgage, and has seen the Bayside neighborhood change dramatically since he moved in.

“You’ll now see children 4 years old walking down (the) road, and I’ll try to talk to them and ask where their family is, but that’s not protection. The police do not have time to make."

Molly Booth, 25, is an author originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts. She pays $600 a month in rent, and lives with one roommate. She had a lot of college friends who lived in Portland and her family visited Maine frequently. She wanted to live in the East End, and didn’t intend to live in Bayside, but fell in love with an apartment on Anderson Street. It’s a two-bedroom with 12-foot ceilings, and even came with a piano.

"A lot of people were concerned when I said I was moving to Bayside, and would tell me, 'Oh, it’s kind of a rough area,' "but I wasn’t particularly concerned. What’s nice, there are so many families here, kids biking and riding their scooters. I’m getting to know my neighbors, and all of the kids are obsessed with my dog. My next-door neighbors have lived here for 50 years, and said if I ever needed anything, even in the middle of the night, to just let them know," Booth said.

Marty Henzy, 21, is originally from Connecticut, and recently graduated from school in Vermont. She works in retail and also at a restaurant. Her friend, Molly Booth, was looking for a roommate, and Henry had visited college friends in Portland and liked the area, so she decided to settle here following graduation. She pays $600 a month in rent and has one roommate in a two-bedroom apartment.

“I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience here. It’s nice, and feels very residential,” Henzy said.

Berrick Bobe, 14, who is originally from Congo, has been living in Portland for three years with three brothers and one sister in a subsidized apartment. Bobe and his family went to Dallas, Texas, when they first came to America, and moved to Portland because of education opportunities. His family first lived in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, but he said he prefers where they live now in Bayside, because there are always children playing outside.


We asked Portlanders to describe their neighborhoods, and these are the words they used.

My neighborhood is a changing place that's probably best known for the light industrial flats. The people who live here are diverse. Our favorite neighborhood business is Ten Ten Pie and when we have spare time we like to visit bayside trails for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably not telling. Dan
My neighborhood is a scary place that's probably best known for Immigrants. The people who live here are poor. Our favorite neighborhood business is Whole Foods and when we have spare time we like to visit the Old Port for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably the Bakery. Dan
My neighborhood is an up and coming place that's probably best known for its diversity. The people who live here are from all different backgrounds. Our favorite neighborhood business is Silly's and when we have spare time we like to visit Coffee By Design for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably the sunsets over the cityscape. Maddie


A video camera mounted on an FAA approved, remote-controlled drone provides an unusual view of Portland’s rental neighborhoods.

View Drone Footage of East Bayside