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Maine mogul – Impact fuels criticism

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Maine’s Libra Foundation has emerged as a big and sometimes controversial player in Portland’s real estate market, The New York Times reported Oct. 15.

The foundation, with assets of $300 million to $400 million, now controls roughly a third of available Class A office space in the city’s downtown.

Libra has given millions of dollars to cultural and social groups in the city of 1.2 million inhabitants, and in 1998 built a $9 million public market in a marginal neighborhood on the edge of town to boost the city’s faltering economy.

Yet despite its good works, the foundation’s real estate deals have generated criticism and questions about its motivies and long-term strategy, the Times said.

Owen Wells, the foundation’s president, told the Times the foundation aims “to have sufficient income from real estate to generate about a third of the revenues we want to give away each year.

“We need to give away at least 5 percent of our gross assets each year, or about $15 million. Our income from real estate is about $5 million, so we’re where we want to be. We don’t plan on buying any more real estate in downtown Portland.”

The foundation was created in 1989 by Elizabeth Noyce, former wife of Robert N. Noyce, a co-inventor of the computer chip and a founder of Intel Corp.

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