The City of South Portland is a coastal community in southern Maine encompassing an area of 12.93 square miles. The city has been referred to as two cities, with the western half of the city hosting commercial, industrial and advanced technology property and the eastern half of the city sporting a community college, a beach area, several parks, one of the State’s largest marinas, a municipal boat ramp, a maritime museum and the second busiest oil port on the entire East Coast.
Prior to World War II South Portland was a residential community that broke away from Cape Elizabeth in 1895. The city was pretty quiet until a shipyard was established in 1940 to build cargo ships for Great Britain. When the United States became involved with World War II the shipyard expanded and turned out 236 of the 440 foot long Liberty Ships, more than 10 percent of all the Liberty ships built during the war years. At its peak, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, including thousands of women, Wendy Welders and Rosie Riveters who took over the jobs vacated by men going into the service. The shipyard gradually ceased operations after the war ended in 1945.
The city remained relatively quiet until the mid 1960’s when consideration was given to develop a piece of land on the west end of the city. Recognizing the location as having a healthy economic future, the city purchased 137 acres from Dwyer’s pig farm in anticipation of the Interstate 295 spur through Portland and South Portland that would be linking with the turnpike just south of the farm, with the added advantage of the close proximity of the Portland International Jetport (the runway is actually located in South Portland). When a developer came to the area looking for a likely spot for a shopping center, South Portland was chosen over Portland, Scarborough and Falmouth. As a result, the Maine Mall opened its first twenty stores to crowds of shoppers in August 1971. In September of 1972 the total taxable sales for the month were 7.5 million. The Mall employed 2,000 employees and had a 10 million dollar annual payroll. In the last 30 years the Maine Mall area has evolved from farmland into the largest retail, commercial, and office complex north of Boston and currently employs more than 3,000 people. Each year the Mall’s 140 businesses draw 13 million visitors to its 1.2 million square feet of retail space. The population of South Portland swells from 23,300 to between 60,000 and 80,000 whenever the Mall’s doors are open.
In the western half of the City where the Maine Mall is located, you will also find two world-class computer chip factories, Fairchild Semiconductor and National Semiconductor, Maine headquarters of Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Wright Express. These businesses provide employment to approximately 6,000 people.
Because of the tax benefits of having such a large and diverse growth of business and commercial property, local government is able to provide many amenities to its residents. Residential taxes account for only forty cents of every tax dollar collected. Citizens enjoy excellent public safety services with the Police and Fire Departments staffed with over 115 employees supplemented by 100 call company personnel.
The Parks and Recreation Department provides services which improve the quality of life for the residents and creates a very active sense of community. The Parks Department maintains a nine-hole Municipal Golf course, 525 acres of park land (of which 300 are actively maintained), a municipal beach and over 8 miles of walking trails. The Recreation Division oversees a municipal swimming pool and a new community center. Six week summer recreation camps provide several hundred children the opportunity to stay active and social through out the summer. Seniors have many opportunities to gather at the community center for a lunch, bingo, walking on the indoor track and also enjoy many other activities. South Portland places tremendous value on recreational sports and activities.
The Public Library maintains a collection of over 90,000 volumes and offers specialized service to the homebound and shut-ins as well as a unique young adult room in the main library.
The South Portland Bus Service operates a fleet of seven 30-foot, handicapped accessible, transit buses over 5 routes through the City.
What makes the community extra unique is the high level of community involvement and participation.
To learn more more about the City of South Portland, please explore our web site. We recommend that you start with the "Making All Things Possible" slide show. Please click on the graphic below to view it.