August 17, 2013

Agreement outlines plan to buy Congress Square Plaza

Reactions to the proposal are mixed. Opponents say the $524,000 price for part of the Portland park insults those 'who know the value of this space.'

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Event center

Should Rockbridge Capital build an event center on 9,500 square feet of Congress Square Plaza?

Yes

No

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click image to enlarge

Congress Square Plaza currently is used as a public space.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

The city allocated $50,000 to hire the consultant, but that process was put on hold in 2011 when Rockbridge purchased the Eastland. A previous proposal to develop the whole park was rejected by the city, leading to the recent proposal and sales negotiations.

Frank Turek is a founding member of the Friends of Congress Square Park, which has been working to save the plaza. On Friday, he sent a letter to City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr. requesting an opportunity make a presentation at Wednesday's meeting.

"Over this extended period of time, the committee has not had a balance of presentation from the perspective of how retention of this public park space will better serve the city," Turek wrote. --"We believe this perspective to be critical in making an informed and balanced decision."

Seeliger said activists are planning a variety of strategies to scuttle the sale, including legal options.

Activists may also plan a physical occupation of the park, she said.

About a year and a half ago, activists established the Occupy Maine encampment in Lincoln Park to protest perceived income inequality. Occupy Maine started with as many as 40 tents there in October 2011, although the number dropped off deeper into the winter. The Occupy group was forced to leave the park after a court order Feb. 1, 2012, after weeks of tension with the city.

If the sale is approved by the full council, Seeliger, who was active in the Occupy movement, said activists would collect signatures to put the issue to voters.

Wennerstrom, however, believes that Rockbridge has already won the debate about buying the land.

"Some people just continue to look back and won't let go," he said. "We had a lot of meaningful discussion -- a lot of public discussion -- and the (May) vote has brought us to this point. I think it time to move forward."

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

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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Today's poll: Event center

Should Rockbridge Capital build an event center on 9,500 square feet of Congress Square Plaza?

Yes

No

View Results