January 16

Portland’s Midtown project now awaits permits, possible legal fight

Opponents haven’t said whether they will appeal the site-plan approval for the $105 million Bayside development.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The developer of four planned high-rises in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood now has approval to move forward with the first phase, but a few obstacles remain before the city can finalize the sale of the land where the project will be built.

click image to enlarge

An artist rendering of the ‘midtown’ project, Phase I.

Image by CBT Architects, Boston, Mass.

Miami-based Federated Cos. entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the city in 2010 for 3.74 acres of city-owned land on Somerset Street. The developer agreed to pay $700,000 per acre to the city, according to Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director.

At that price, the city would receive $2.4 million for the former scrapyard property between downtown and Route 295. Mitchell said the city owes its real estate broker 8 percent, or $194,320, of that sum.

Mitchell said the City Council has not yet decided how the city will spend the money.

The sale of the land was contingent on the project receiving planning approvals and building permits.

The Planning Board on Tuesday approved the project’s master plan, subdivision plan and its first phase site plan, which includes 235 apartments in a 165-foot tall tower.

The permitting process can take weeks or months to complete.

Developers must also wait 30 days to see whether opponents of the project follow through on a promise to appeal the planning board approvals in Superior Court.

On Wednesday, attorney Sandra Guay, who represents opponents Peter Monro and Tim Paradis, said she has not had a chance to meet with her clients to discuss a possible appeal.

Monro and Paradis co-founded the Keep Portland Livable group, which has been organizing opposition to midtown through social media.

Greg Shinberg, a local developer who represents Federated Cos. in Portland, said the developers are eager to begin the project.

“We are full tilt, ready to go,” Shinberg said.

Shinberg estimated that 75 to 80 percent of people working on the $39 million first phase will be from Maine, and the 235 apartments alone could generate $33 million in short- and long-term economic benefits.

He invited opponents to offer constructive input into the project rather than trying to appeal the planning board’s approval.

“It would be a tragedy for them to stall this project,” Shinberg said.

The first phase site plan for the residential tower, a 705-vehicle garage and first floor retail space was unanimously approved.

So was the project’s overall master plan, which calls for more than 650 market-rate apartments in four towers of about 15 stories each, 1,100 parking spaces in two garages and 100,000 square feet of retail space on Somerset Street, near Back Cove.

But the board voted 5-2 on Federated’s subdivision plan, with Planning Board Chairman Stuart O’Brien and board member Bill Hall dissenting over releasing an easement designed to preserve the visibility of the Bayside Trail.

Mitchell said he hopes the sale can be finalized before the end of the fiscal year on June 30 so the developer can break ground this year.

“Our intent from the start was to get this project under construction as soon as possible,” Mitchell said.

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

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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