South Portland, Maine

South Portland, Maine is just across the Casco Bay from the City of Portland, and is located in Cumberland County. The population of South Portland is about one-third of its close neighbor to the north, with a 2000 U.S. Census count of 23,324.

Covering a land mass of 12 square miles and 2.3 square miles over water, South Portland shares the cool and rainy weather patterns of the Maine coastal area. South Portland's peninsula juts out of the mainland northwardly toward the city of Portland. It is surrounded by its watery neighbors of Casco Bay and the Portland Harbor. From the average height above sea level of only 24 feet, the view from South Portland appears to look down onto the skyline of Portland to the north. Looking at South Portland’s GIS zone mapping looks like an interleaved patch work of flat lands with residential and commercial or industrial zones at its core. Future expansion plans show a smoothing and spreading out of this zoning mix, especially toward the west.

The original settlement at South Portland dates back to 1630. It was a residential community with many farms. It wasn’t until 1895 that it was incorporated when a dispute over future planned water resources forced the issue. In 1898, South Portland became a city. South Portland saw its first growth spurt with the establishment of the New England Shipbuilding Corporation, near the beginning of the World War II. The local facility in South Portland, the “West Yard,” turned out a record number of the Liberty Ships used in the war. South Portland's waterfront has returned as a vibrant reborn area.

South Portland developed as the City of Portland grew. Consequently it contains much of what Portland needed to expand, mainly housing and retail sales space. While retail indeed developed and thrives it is more of the suburban strip mall type of retail. South Portland lacks the downtown and the kind of shopping and tourism unique to that environment and instead has created a niche shopping arena that some other parts of the country would refer to as suburban sprawl. Here, however, this massive gathering of retail has made the area into a retail Mecca, highlighted by The Maine Mall. In the 1960s, a huge pig farm was purchased and developed into what became the retail corridor and is now well fed from the intersection of Interstate 295 and Interstate 95.

South Portland’s city government is made up of an elected seven-member council. From them, they choose a ceremonial mayor who serves as chairman of the council. They appoint a city manager who oversees the daily business operations of the city and implements any council rulings. Establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall master plan for the city are the main responsibility of the council.