PORTLAND — Recently, the Portland Planning Board approved the first phase of the “midtown” project, which will feature 235 market-rate apartments and a parking garage. Midtown will add much-needed market-rate housing to the Bayside neighborhood, transforming a former brownfield site into an economic growth engine for the area.

As the project moves forward, it’s worth a quick look back at who midtown is for, how the process worked and what comes next.

WHO IS MIDTOWN FOR?

Midtown will provide greater options for both current and future Portland residents who are looking for housing. In doing so, it will help drive down Portland’s expensive rental housing costs. Portland has a high demand for rental housing, but there aren’t enough apartments for everyone who wants one – which means that without an increase in supply, rents will keep increasing. Midtown will create 235 apartments, taking pressure off Portland’s rental housing market.

With easy, walkable access to businesses, restaurants, entertainment and civic activities, Bayside is an ideal neighborhood for both longtime residents and newcomers to experience Portland. Life is good here.

For job seekers, midtown will create both temporary and long-lasting jobs. The first phase of the development will create approximately 175 construction jobs, and after completion, new retailers and businesses will occupy the space on the ground floor of the apartments.

Also, midtown means more residents, and more residents mean more feet on the street – which is good for local businesses.

For visitors and vacationers, midtown will contribute to the appeal of the city. The Bayside neighborhood is far more than a scrapyard and brownfield, but to a casual visitor, giant piles of dirty snow dominate the landscape, deterring casual pedestrians and others who might use the space.

Midtown helps to make the space more inviting for both visitors and Portland residents, whether they are traveling by car, by foot, by bus or by bicycle.

PLANNING BY PORTLAND, FOR PORTLAND

In December 1999, the Portland City Council adopted “A New Vision for Bayside” as part of the city’s comprehensive plan for revitalizing the Bayside neighborhood. One of the principles guiding future Bayside development was the creation of a “walkable district” where people have easy access to trails and sidewalks.

A key part of the midtown development process will be raising the Bayside Trail to be level with the ground floor businesses, helping to integrate midtown with the neighborhood while preventing future flooding of the trail. People will be able to walk comfortably in a vibrant and lively Bayside.

Opponents of midtown have made alarming mischaracterizations regarding its consistency with the principles of the “New Vision for Bayside.” However, midtown is meticulously aligned with the plan’s principles.

The Bayside Neighborhood Association has been vital in the planning process and improving the midtown project. Since the beginning of the process three years ago, developers have worked closely with and listened to the requests of the neighborhood association – and, in the process, made midtown better for everyone.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Midtown has substantial benefits for both the Bayside area and Greater Portland, including increased housing choice, stabilization of rents and the opening of a former brownfield and scrapyard site to development that will support active streets and local businesses. The longer the development is pushed back, the longer it will take for the benefits to have an impact, and the longer the land will remain underutilized.

The next step in the development process is for the people of Bayside and Greater Portland to write to their City Council members and Mayor Michael Brennan and to let them know why they should support midtown.

The Planning Board has approved the project, but there are those who would like to stall it in protracted, pointless legal battles. This is, and has been, a process that relies on neighborhood and city resident support and feedback. As midtown moves forward, it will continue to rely on the support of the people of Portland.

— Special to the Press Herald