PORTLAND -– The Planning Board will be asked Tuesday night to endorse a zoning amendment that would allow a developer to build some of the tallest buildings in Portland.
The building height amendments would accommodate a mixed-use project in the city’s Bayside neighborhood called “Midtown.”
Midtown’s developer, Federated Cos. of Miami, needs flexibility in the zone’s height restrictions to start work on the first phase of a project that could take as long as eight years to complete.
Federated has a purchase-and-sales agreement to buy the property from the city, contingent on city approvals for the development. Once the 3-acre site has been fully developed, midtown would have four towers – each potentially as tall as 165 feet – with 675 market-rate apartments.
The development would have 1,100 parking spaces in two garages, and roughly 90,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, according to Federated’s local representative, Greg Shinberg.
“The end game for us is to attract people to live in Bayside,” Shinberg said Monday. “But we understand that (building) height is a barrier for some folks.”
That’s why Federated’s development team has done everything it can to preserve views from Back Cove to Portland’s downtown, Shinberg said.
It is also making a substantial investment – about $38 million in midtown’s phase one – in a neighborhood the city has been trying to revitalize for almost two decades.
For project to be successful, Shinberg said, the buildings must be tall enough to offer tenants views of Back Cove and the city skyline. He said the towers would be among the tallest buildings in Portland.
By comparison, Franklin Towers, the tallest building in the city, is 204 feet. The Intermed building on Marginal Way, near midtown’s site, is 135 feet tall.
“It’s going to be a very dense, urban development,” Shinberg said of midtown.
Bayside residents have mixed feelings about midtown. While they like the prospect of more people living in their neighborhood, some are concerned about the height of the buildings.
“I think that there is a lot of excitement about this project but I do think there is some concern about the height of the buildings,” said Steve Hirshon, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association.
Hirshon said the association’s board of directors sent a letter to the Planning Board asking that it not allow midtown’s buildings to exceed the zone’s current 125-foot height limit.
“If the Planning Board votes (to allow buildings as tall as 165 feet) it won’t be the end of the day for us,” he said. “No one is going out with pitchforks. We’ll live with it.”
Phase one of the project calls for construction of 180 to 190 market-rate apartments in a single building near Somerset and Pearl streets.
Midtown also would have a six-story parking garage with room for 705 cars. There would be 39,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of that building.
The completed project, built in three phases, would encompass a block between Marginal Way and Somerset Street, near Trader Joe’s.
The first phase of the project – known previously as Maritime Landing – would cost about $38 million and take more than two years to complete.
Shinberg said the developers decided to change the name for marketing reasons.
Even if the Planning Board endorses the building height amendments, the proposal will have to go before the City Council, which has the final say.
Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
If the council approves the amendments, Shinberg will be required to return to the Planning Board for site plan review and approval — a process that will likely require more workshops and hearings.
Construction of phase one might not start until this fall.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: