Saturday, March 8, 2014
Plans to hold concerts on the South Portland waterfront starting this summer faded this week when a private developer withdrew his application to build an outdoor theater.
John Cacoulidis proposed building a concert venue on a tract next to Bug Light Park in South Portland, immediately above the oil tanks in this photo.
John Cacoulidis proposed a 10,000-seat theater on land he owns next to Bug Light Park and overlooking Portland Harbor. The plan was backed by city officials, who dropped an earlier plan to develop a performing arts center on nearby land the city would have leased from Portland Pipe Line Co.
Cacoulidis formally withdrew his application this week, according to Tom Moulton, the property owner’s representative for the South Portland site.
“It was happening at a pace that he was uncomfortable with. He didn’t think it had been vetted properly from a financial and an operational standpoint,” Moulton said Friday.
Moulton said city officials were working with Cacoulidis to make the project happen, but there were too many unanswered questions, such as the upfront investment, the amount of earthwork and fencing that would be required, the acceptable noise levels and traffic impacts.
“If he (Cacoulidis) wants to do something, he wants to do it right,” Moulton said.
Cacoulidis had only committed to hosting the concert venue for a three-year period, Moulton said, because he did not want to tie up a property that may have better uses in the long term.
Moulton said it is still possible the project could be reintroduced in the future, but not in time to hold concerts this summer.
“It’s off for now, at least for (the summer),” he said.
Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings, the official who led the city’s development efforts, said the decision was unfortunate, but that the city would continue looking for a site to make the project happen.
“We’re regrouping and we had other locations that we want to continue to look at,” Jennings said Friday.
Jennings said the city may re-examine the Portland Pipe Line land for the venue.
“I think we need to have that discussion to see if there is an opportunity,” he said.
Jennings said he remains convinced the city should have a place for outdoor concerts.
“We’re going to try to make something happen. I’m not sure about it happening this summer, but … we think this is a really important economic development (opportunity),” he said.
Jennings said he had worked closely with Cacoulidis and his development team, but the property owner decided to pursue a master plan for the property before moving forward with the theater.
Cacoulidis’ decision to withdraw the application was not related to efforts in Westbrook to develop a smaller outdoor concert venue on the bank of the Presumpscot River.
City officials there have been studying the costs of a 2,500-seat outdoor theater at Riverbank Park on Main Street.
In Portland, meanwhile, more outdoor concerts are in the works for the city’s Eastern Promenade, and an outdoor amphitheater is in the latest plan for a $110 million mixed-use project on Thompson’s Point.
William Baker, assistant city administrator in Westbrook, said last week that whichever city creates the first venue could be the only one. “No one thinks the area can handle more than one such venue,” he said.
Jennings said Friday that he disagrees. He said there is enough of a market for outdoor entertainment venues for more than one to succeed.
“I think there’s any number of opportunities for multiple venues in the Greater Portland area, and particularly for venues of varying sizes,” Jennings said.
John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: