Members of a group seeking work space for artists and other creative ventures told the Portland City Council on Wednesday that they are interested in partnering with the city and the University of Southern Maine to convert two buildings in the Bayside neighborhood into a new creative arts and technology center.
The proposal calls for reusing two city Department of Public Services buildings for Portland Arts and Creative Enterprise, or PACE, a center for innovation and design. The project would be part of Creative Space, an initiative to find arts and other work space in the city that was launched by the Creative Portland Corp., which was founded in 2008 to enhance the city’s creative economy.
“We feel this project could help revitalize the Bayside area,” said Thomas Blackburn, a spokesman for Creative Space. “It could create what we like to call a rising tide that could spur other types of development in the neighborhood.”
Blackburn presented the proposal to the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, but committee chairman Kevin Donoghue said no action would be taken Wednesday night.
Blackburn said his group would need at least two months to develop a concept plan for converting the two buildings on Hanover Street, near the Forest Avenue Post Office, into an arts and technology campus.
One of the buildings, a 36,000-square-foot former livery stable known as the General Store, currently serves as the Department of Public Services garage. The second, at 13,000 square feet, houses the city’s Traffic Operations and Facilities Management offices. In the coming months, the city is planning to relocate some of its Department of Public Services operations and staff from the Bayside neighborhood to a leased facility at 212 Canco Road. The smaller of the two buildings could be empty by the end of the year, and the other would be available later.
Blackburn said his group would at least like to have the opportunity to develop a reuse plan before the two buildings are sold.
Last August, Creative Portland announced an initiative to make it easier for artists to find spaces to work and display their art.
The Creative Space group then spent several months trying to find a home for an arts and technology center that would include academic offerings, attract skilled workers and entrepreneurs and provide the community with access to a space where they could pursue their work.
Blackburn said the University of Southern Maine has expressed an interest in becoming a partner in the Bayside project.
In a preliminary proposal to the city, dated October 2013, Creative Space states that “few leaders are more excited about the PACE Center than USM President Theo Kalikow. She sees the Center as a unique partnership that will create a bridge between her campus and the peninsula, becoming a forum for community-based learning initiatives that will help increase the exposure of the USM community to the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Kalikow did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Blackburn said an arts and technology center could help stem the university’s “tide of declining enrollment.”
Blackburn said the PACE Center is modeled after a similar effort in Somerville, Mass., called Artisan’s Asylum.
The Artisan’s Asylum website describes the group as a nonprofit devoted to providing education, workspace and the community to empower fabricators, artists and hobbyists.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:[email protected]