Thursday, April 24, 2014
PORTLAND – Developers of an ambitious residential and commercial project in Bayside are headed back to the drawing board to address concerns over how the complex could affect views and the city's skyline.
Originally, the project envisioned seven 14-story towers to be built along Somerset Street. Preliminary plans for Maritime Landing included as many as 700 residences, retail space and two parking garages.
The Planning Board was scheduled to review a master plan and a request for zone changes for the project Tuesday. But Greg Shinberg, who is representing the developer, Federated Cos., said the company has requested the meeting be postponed until later this month so the building designs can be refined to reduce the visual impact.
"It's fair to say we're going to make big changes from the original scheme," Shinberg said Wednesday. "The configuration of the housing towers will change. We're looking at trying to improve the impact on the skyline."
Developers are sensitive about the impact and are trying to develop a project that shows the city in its best light, said Jeff Levine, the city's Planning and Urban Development director.
"It's a very high-profile project in an important redevelopment area," Levine said. "We're trying to make sure this project comes out wonderfully. It is going to be one of the first things people see when they come into town on the highway."
The Planning Board largely supported the proposed development during a November workshop, but expressed some concerns over the seven-tower layout.
Preliminary designs indicate views from the area around Elm, Cedar and Myrtle streets could be affected. Planned building heights, which could reach 165 feet, could block views of Back Cove and local landmarks from some areas.
Among the residents to be affected by the towers are those living at the Chestnut Street Lofts on the corner of Chestnut Street and Cumberland Avenue, which overlook Back Cove.
Condo association president Jan Williams said residents of the 37-unit condo building likely have varied opinions about the project. Many support the economic impact of the development, while others are worried about the design.
Williams has formed a committee to learn more about the project and its potential impact. That committee is expected to report back to the association, which likely will take a position on the project during the public review process, he said.
Neighborhood leaders, meanwhile, are excited about how the project's market-rate housing could transform Bayside, a former industrial area with scrap yards that is now an epicenter for social services.
"(Bringing in) more people really enhances the neighborhood because there is more activity day-to-day," said Steve Hirshon, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association. "And that's what we need."
Concerns over sight lines and the skyline also were raised in 2008 when the Intermed building and the Bayside Village were proposed. But some neighbors appear willing to accept a new view.
Cumberland Avenue resident and neighborhood association member Ron Spinella expects to lose his view of Back Cove, but he accepts that.
"I don't own the view," Spinella said. "I'm glad something's moving forward. It's pretty exciting knowing the neighborhood will grow. I'm not offended by the tall buildings."
Federated Cos. currently has a purchase and sale agreement to buy 3.25 acres of city land along Somerset Street for $2.2 million.
The full build-out still is expected to take place over three phases and include up to 700 residences, 90,000 square feet of retail and two parking garages for about 1,110 vehicles.
The first phase of the project was estimated earlier to cost $38 million. It would include a 700-space parking garage and, as of this week, two residential towers with retail space and up to 180 residences.
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