September 10, 2013

Portland postpones vote to sell Congress Square Plaza

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Wells Lyons of Portland voices his opposition to the sale of Congress Square to the Portland City Council in front of a packed chambers Monday, September 9, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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City Councilman Nicholas Mavodones, at right, rubs his eyes during a city council meeting Monday, September 9, 2013, that went longer than three hours as citizens packed the city council chamber to speak on the proposed sale of Congress Square. At left is City Councilwoman Jill Duson.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Public Policy Polling, a national polling firm from Raleigh, N.C., conducted a two-day poll about the potential sale at the request of someone who wanted to remain anonymous.

According to results released during the weekend, residents largely oppose the proposal, saying the price is too low and any sale of the plaza should be put directly to voters.

"Don't do this," John Eder said. "My gosh, you're going to war with the city of Portland."

The Friends of Congress Square Park, a group that formed as a caretaker of the neglected space, filed a petition with the city last week that could protect the plaza from development. The group needs at least 1,500 signatures to put the proposed ordinance to voters.

Sally Oldham, a member of Greater Portland Landmarks' board of directors, said the proposal has potential to be a win-win but the agreement in its current form is too weak.

The expansion would have to remain an event center for at least 10 years. After that, it could be converted to another hotel use. Any non-hotel use would require the council's approval.

The hotel would be asked to hold public art events at least six times a year but retain the power to cancel public events that conflict with private events.

The city would retain the rights to the Union Station Clock and any other materials from the plaza, including the granite.

Members of Occupy Maine protested the sale over the weekend. They had hoped to spend the entire weekend at the plaza, but left at night under police orders.

Opponents held a rally at the plaza before Monday's council meeting, while supporters got to the council chambers early, filling most of the first-floor seats. Several supporters, wearing "Yes on Congress Square," reviewed the same set of talking points.

With signs, opponents marched down Congress Street chanting, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Rockbridge has got to go," and "Save democracy. Save Congress Square."

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

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Additional Photos

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Bonnie Johnstone of Portland leaves the podium at the Portland City Council chambers after speaking in opposition to the sale of Congress Square Monday, September 9, 2013.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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Two men who refused to give their names appeared briefly at the Portland City Council meeting Monday, September 9, 2013, to protest the sale of Congress Square.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer


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