August 28, 2013

$38 million Portland project 'starting to gel'

Planning Board members give favorable reviews to the ambitious Bayside plan for apartments and retail space.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Preliminary designs for the first phase of a high-rise apartment and retail complex in the Bayside neighborhood received favorable reviews from the Planning Board on Tuesday.

click image to enlarge

An artist rendering of the 'midtown' project, Phase I.

Image by CBT Architects, Boston, Mass.

The ambitious project -- called "midtown" -- calls for three phases that could take as long as 10 years to complete. It envisions 675 market-rate apartments in four towers of about 15 stories each, 1,100 parking spaces in two garages and 93,000 square feet of retail space.

The first phase would consist of a 165-foot-tall residential tower and six-story parking garage.

David Hancock, principal at the Boston-based design firm CBT Architects, and Greg Shinberg, owner of the Portland-based Shinberg Consulting, presented the preliminary design for Phase 1 for the first time on Tuesday.

"It's really starting to gel," said Planning Board Chairwoman Carol Morrissette.

The design includes pre-cast concrete, glass and metal skins with red accents.

"It's modern industrial," Shinberg said of the design after the meeting.

CBT replaced another architectural firm, Perkins Eastman, due to differing artistic visions with Federated Cos., the Miami-based developer, Shinberg said.

The scale of the project has caused concern among some residents.

While planners were encouraged by the preliminary design, Alex Landry, a member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said it reminded him of a beach-front condo in Miami rather than a building that would fit into Portland's historic landscape.

"I was really looking forward to seeing some brick, but I didn't get it," said Landry, who was otherwise optimistic about the project because it promises to bring an influx of residences to the neighborhood.

Shinberg said the tower will be stepped back between the third and fifth floors so it is less imposing to pedestrians. He acknowledged that challenges remain -- such as addressing the tower's effect on wind and shadowing.

"I find this very encouraging," board member Bill Hall said. "You're headed down the right road."

Federated Cos. has 3.25 acres of city-owned land on Somerset Street under contract to buy for $2.3 million.

City and neighborhood officials have made a priority of redeveloping Bayside, a former industrial neighborhood next to Interstate 295 that has been home to rail yards, scrap yards and warehouses.

The first phase is projected to cost about $38 million. It would consist of 180 to 190 market-rate apartments, a six-level parking garage for 705 vehicles and more than 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space at the corner of Somerset and Pearl streets.

Shinberg said he expects to have another workshop with the Planning Board on Sept. 10. His goal is to receive board approvals by the end of October and begin construction shortly thereafter. "We'll try to shoot right ahead," he said.

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

rbillings@pressherald.com

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