PORTLAND — A proposal that would allow the Eastland Park Hotel to expand into a city-owned park at Congress and High streets will now go before a City Council committee for further consideration.

Members of the City Council on Monday night received a brief overview of the proposal, which would allow the hotel’s owners to build a convention and conference center on Congress Square Plaza.

Councilors took no action.

The small city-owned park, which is less than a half-acre in size, is in the heart of Portland’s Arts District, near the Portland Museum of Art.

Greg Mitchell, the city’s director of economic development, said the council’s Community Development Committee will have to review whether a sale or lease of the property would be in the city’s best interest.

“The committee will need to do their due diligence before putting forth a recommendation to the City Council,” Mitchell said.

The proposal has been endorsed by members of the Congress Square Redesign Study Group.

The 15-member committee was appointed by the City Council in 2008 to come up with a plan for improving Congress Square Plaza. City councilors Kevin Donoghue and David Marshall served on the study group.

Though Donoghue and members of the study group unanimously endorsed the expansion, Donoghue said, “This is a decision that will ultimately live with the City Council.”

It wasn’t until the Eastland Plaza Hotel was purchased this spring by Ohio-based Rockbridge Capital that a plan for Congress Square Plaza started to take shape.

Bruce Wennerstrom, a vice president with NewCastle Hotels and Resorts, which operates the Eastland, said his company came up with the plan to expand into the park.

Wennerstrom, who also serves as general manager of the hotel, said the park would serve as a convention and conference center, as well as an arts and community meeting center.

“It would ultimately benefit everyone,” he said.

Alex Jaegerman, director of the city’s Planning Division, said the new building would likely be at least 35 feet in height, or about two stories tall.

He told the council that the structure would need to exemplify high-caliber architecture in order to blend with the buildings in the surrounding public space.

A date for the next meeting of the Community Development Committee has not been set.

In other business, the City Council held a public hearing on an application from Henry Steinberg for a beer license for a new pub at 21 Pleasant St. It would be called Lamplighters Tavern.

But after hearing several complaints from neighbors about allowing a bar in that neighborhood, Steinberg withdrew his application.

“I will bow to their knowledge,” Steinberg said. “I thank you for your time. I’m sorry I’ve wasted it.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]