2013-11-08 / Community

Need a new license? Head to Scarborough

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The secretary of state’s search for a site to relocate the South Portland Bureau of Motor Vehicles has finally ended. On Friday, Oct. 25, the office moved from space in the Maine Mall to a vacant storefront in the Gateway Shoppes at 260 Payne Road.

“Relocating this BMV office was been a significant priority for several years,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a release announcing the move. “However, finding a new site in the general proximity of the current one that meets customer need as well as the needs of the department, while staying on budget, has proven to be a difficult undertaking. I think the space we’ve found in Scarborough meets the majority of our expectations and customers will be happy with the improvements the new location has enabled us to make.”

The secretary of state’s office reports the South Portland location is the second busiest branch of the bureau’s 13 locations, but is “grossly undersized” for the 60,000 customers it serves annually.

Dunlap told the Sentry the BMV operation had simply outgrown the Maine Mall branch, which opened Jan. 1, 1997.

“It was a small branch and has had a few issues. You couldn’t access it from inside the mall. There was limited parking and limited seating inside,” Dunlap said.

According to the release, “the lobby only accommodates seating for 34 and the parking lot is inadequate and inconvenient for customers and staff, especially during the holiday season.”

The Scarborough location will have 100 spaces for customers and staff and nine spaces dedicated to road tests and parallel parking. It will have seating for close to 60 customers and a bathroom, which the Maine Mall location lacked. The location, which Dunlap said his office had looked at before, is located approximately three miles from the former Maine Mall location.

“The Maine Mall has been good to us over the years,” said Dunlap, who took over the role of secretary of state earlier this year from Scarborough resident Charlie Summers. Dunlap previously served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2011. “We have had no regrets having a branch there. We had simply outgrown it. This gave us an opportunity to serve the community better.”

Dunlap said in looking for a new branch location there are a number of requirements that need to be met. The branch location must have space for motor vehicle services, such as license renewals, vehicle registration, but also for road testing for commercial and personal vehicles and renewals of state identification cards.

“As you look for certain characteristics … parking, accessibility, centrally located, you start narrowing down options pretty quickly,” Dunlap said.

The new location, Dunlap said, is centrally located near Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike, has plenty of parking and is accessible on public transportation.

Barry Feldman, Gateway Shoppes’ principal owner, said he has had bureau of motor vehicle offices in “a number of my other properties and it’s always been a good experience and a good draw for the shopping center.”

“I think it’s a tremendous addition to our project and I am very excited and pleased to have the opportunity to rent the storefront out to them,” Feldman said. “It’s been a long time coming. We have been working with the BMV for a long time.”

Feldman said it is reasonable to expect an additional 300 to 500 people a day in the complex because of the BMV, something he hopes will benefit the stores and restaurants already on site.

“We think it will draw the public to our complex,” Feldman said.

Jane St. Pierre, who owns Kitchen & Cork, a cooking and kitchen supply shop, is happy to see the Bureau of Motor Vehicles move in next to her store. The site has sat vacant since St. Pierre opened Kitchen & Cork in 2008.

“I think it will cause what we want, which is more foot traffic,” she said. “With more foot traffic more retail will come.”

While the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is not a retail outlet, St. Pierre said she sees it helping to drive the shopping experience in the plaza. While waiting for their turn in line, she said, individuals could stop by her store or Petlife to browse or visit nearby Portland Pie Pizza, Thai 9 or Haven’s Candies for a quick bite to eat.

St. Pierre said her new neighbor has already helped her business. On Oct. 25, the BMV employees took part in a cooking class at Kitchen & Cork.

Desiree Boivin, Petlife’s assistant store manager, said she also hopes the new tenant will attract visitors to the plaza.

“We hope the foot traffic will generate more business,” Boivin said. “Foot traffic has improved in the last year, but we are hoping the BMV being here will make more people aware we are have and we have great products.”

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