Portland’s Eastern Waterfront could look a lot different in a few years.

Gravel parking lots could be replaced with a waterfront park and new multistory buildings. A new marina is on track to be opened next year as part of the massive redevelopment of 58 Fore St., a 10-acre parcel that could become the city’s newest waterfront community.

And the city expects to reopen the conversation about the future of the Maine State Pier this summer.

It’s been about 15 years since the city outlined its vision for underutilized and former industrial areas in its Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, but it is only now beginning to come to life.

“It really appears to be coming out of the ground,” said Bill Needelman, the city’s waterfront coordinator.

Last week, the city unveiled a concept design for the Amethyst Lot, a neglected waterfront parking lot between the city’s Ocean Gateway terminal and the former Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St., where the CPB2 development team has been looking to create a new marina that could be approved by the Harbor Commission this week.

The city also opened development proposals for a 48,000-square-foot gravel parking lot on Thames Street.

The city’s request drew two bidders: Developer Jonathan Cohen of 0 Hancock Street LLC is willing to pay $2.5 million for the land so he can build a new corporate headquarters for the payment processor Wex Inc. of South Portland, and Mike Marino of Jackrabbit LLC, who owns adjacent property, is willing to pay $3.1 million so he can build two mixed-use buildings with office, residential and retail space. Both proposals include parking garages.

The City Council’s Economic Development Committee will begin reviewing these proposals Tuesday in an executive session, which is closed to the public.

 

WATERFRONT PARK, BERTHING

Preliminary concept designs released Thursday for the city-owned Amethyst Lot include berthing for transient vessels on the easternmost portion of the site, next to where CPB2’s marina is proposed. A group of waterfront stakeholders has been working on the plan since last summer.

Details on the number and size of boats that could use the city berthing will depend on the permitting process, Needelman said.

The city currently has only enough space for a handful of transient boats – those that visit for a few hours or a day – at the end of the Maine State Pier. Its other dock at Bell Buoy Park is only for loading and unloading.

“During the peak season it’s generally ‘wait your turn’ to get in there,” Needelman said. “That’s been one area the city has been criticized for in the past – we don’t have enough public landing berths.”

The design would also drastically change Moon Tide Park, a tidal area that contains contaminated dredging materials from the 1980s. Needelman said the plan calls for new walls to help contain dredged material and filling it in, so the area can be leveled and used for visitors and events.

The park design includes space for Sail Maine’s community boating program and a flexible space for events, street vendors, food trucks and the like. It also includes an area for building 7-foot-tall hills that would serve a dual purpose: protecting the area from storm surges, and giving visitors a way to get a better view of the harbor.

“We’d like this site to be a demonstration about how open-space development and environmental resiliency can work hand in hand,” Needelman said.

There will be a public forum on the concept design the evening of May 25 at the Ocean Gateway terminal.

REDEVELOPMENT OF 58 FORE ST.

Farther east, the redevelopment of 58 Fore St. is moving forward. Over the next decade, developer CPB2 is looking to build a new neighborhood of more than 500 residential units, a marina, offices, retail and restaurants. The first phase of that project is a new marina.

After receiving city approval of its overall development plan, securing a key piece of land to access the site and getting the city’s commitment to extend Thames Street and public utilities to the site, CPB2 is currently seeking permits from the Harbor Commission for its $12 million marina and associated amenities, such as restrooms, showers and laundry, in a new two-story building.

Harbor Master Kevin Battle said the commission has held two meetings on the proposal and will likely vote Thursday. No significant changes have been requested, he said.

Currently, Portland Yacht Services operates a 69-slip marina on roughly 13 acres of submerged lands. CPB2 is proposing to expand that footprint to 141 slips plus an additional 1,776 linear feet for “side-tie boats,” including dinghies for vessels moored outside the marina. The project would include a wave attenuator, essentially a dock system that also functions as a breakwater to protect vessels from large waves, and accommodate yachts of 125 feet or more.

CPB2 partner Casey Prentice said the proposal would need additional approvals, including site plan review by city staff, before construction could begin by the end of the year.

“We are working toward the goal of having the marina operational for next summer’s (2018) boating season,” Casey said.

MAINE STATE PIER UPGRADE

Meanwhile, the City Council’s Economic Development Committee is expected to begin discussions later this summer about the future of the Maine State Pier and the Portland Ocean Terminal building, which has 90,000 square feet on the ground floor plus 30,000 square feet on the upper floor.

Ready Seafood currently leases 24,000 square feet in the large blue building with whales painted on it, and during the summer the open space on the pier is used by Waterfront Concerts.

City Councilor David Brenerman, who leads the committee, said there’s about 70,000 square feet of vacant space in the terminal building, which is deteriorating because of a lack of investment. Brenerman said he will be working with City Manager Jon Jennings and Economic Development Director Gregory Mitchell on a proposal to bring to the committee.

Brenerman said all options are on the table, including issuing a request for proposals to redevelop the pier, which has been controversial in the past, or simply improving the existing building and leasing it out. However, he said options are limited by other factors, including the future needs of Casco Bay Lines and the Department of Homeland Security, which screens passengers and vehicles coming and going on The Cat high-speed ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

“There are so many moving pieces,” Brenerman said. “This is the next great economic development project for the waterfront, in my view. You just can’t have that many thousands of square feet of prime space on the waterfront and nothing happening there.”

Correction: This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. on May 8 to correct the spelling of Mike Marino’s name.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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