All of us in Portland recognize the significant community interest in the 58 Fore St. development. Next Wednesday, the Portland City Council will consider the establishment of a historic district at this site of the former Portland Co.

The proposed district, as recommended by the Planning Board, deserves broad support. It will preserve important buildings in the complex and tell the story of the company’s history.

The proposal, which is agreeable to the developers, CPB2, is less restrictive than that proposed by the city’s Historic Preservation Board and will allow for the flexibility needed to create a project that meets other community needs for housing, waterfront access and economic development, in addition to historic preservation.

The CPB2 team has dedicated 2½ years, and significant capital, to creating a concept for a successful historic rehabilitation of the former Portland Co., enabling those neglected historic buildings to be celebrated by Portlanders for generations to come. CPB2 has also, necessarily, been focused on creating an economically viable redevelopment plan for this critical portion of Portland’s eastern waterfront, which is also dedicated to accomplishing the many overarching goals set forth in Portland’s Eastern Waterfront Master Plan.

Importantly, the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan represents a comprehensive balancing of the many community interests and goals developed during the extensive four-year master planning process. Of the 21 objectives of the master plan, historic preservation is certainly one, but there is a consistent and strong focus on increasing public access to the waterfront and promoting economic development for the city of Portland.

The historic preservation constituency has long advocated for the creation of a historic district on the former Portland Co. site. In addition, it has advocated for numerous buildings to be listed as “contributing structures” to ensure that the historic core of the Portland Co. site is protected for generations to come.

In keeping with its legislated charge, the city Historic Preservation Board recommended boundaries for a historic district and designated eight historically significant buildings as “contributing structures” to be preserved.

The owners of the property, CPB2, have expressed concern that the Historic Preservation Board-proposed historic district boundary and the requirement to preserve Building 1 along with seven other structures unduly limits the planning flexibility needed to create an economically viable, adaptive re-use of the property and to provide public access from Munjoy Hill through the site to the waterfront. Planning and economic considerations such as these are not within the legal purview of the Historic Preservation Board.

For the city of Portland to be able to celebrate this historic site, it is critical that we balance the interests of historic preservation with both the economic viability of the development and the interests of the broader community.

In October, the Portland Planning Board agreed with this by unanimously recommending to the City Council a revised plan for the local historic district at the 58 Fore St. site.

The Planning Board recommended reducing the local historic district’s boundaries, which include every building that both the Historic Preservation and Greater Portland Landmarks boards have advocated be listed as “contributing structures” on the site.

The Planning Board also designated seven of the eight historically significant Portland Co. buildings to be “contributing structures,” which is very much in line with the recommendation of the Historic Preservation and Greater Portland Landmarks boards.

To ensure that the board recommendation aligned with the goals of the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, which was adopted into the city’s comprehensive plan, the Planning Board listed one structure (Building 1) as “non-contributing,” contingent upon the property owner providing the city a public access easement through the site to the waterfront.

Saving this most important historic site in the city of Portland will be a great victory for historic preservation in Maine. The opportunity to tell future generations the story of the Portland Co.’s importance to the history of American industry is significant. Additionally, the development will provide considerable economic benefit to Portland.

The adaptive re-use of these historic structures is dependent on their economic viability. Those in our community who would fail to recognize this fact by opposing the Planning Board recommendation to our City Council will potentially place this project in peril for the sake of saving all eight of the significant structures. They need to reconsider their positions and support this great project.