Saturday, May 25, 2013
PORTLAND – A City Council committee is recommending that the council use $9 million in public money to help a developer build a $38 million mixed-used project in the Bayside neighborhood.
The committee voted 3-1 Wednesday night to support the subsidy, with Councilor Cheryl Leeman opposed.
Councilors Kevin Donoghue, Ed Suslovic and Nicholas Mavodones voted for the subsidy to help Federated Cos. build a 700-space parking garage with as much as 41,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space on Somerset Street.
That building is a key component of phase one of the Maritime Landing project, which also calls for two residential towers with as many as 176 housing units.
"I think this project is a game changer for the Bayside neighborhood," said Mavodones, because Maritime Landing could help stimulate investment in other vacant lots in Bayside.
Federated Cos. will have three years to complete phase one. There is no timeline or estimated value for the second phase, which would include 250 to 268 two-bedroom apartments and 180 to 196 one-bedroom units.
Wednesday night's vote set the stage for the City Council to consider whether Portland should provide a $9.07 million grant to Federated Cos. to help it build the garage.
Of that sum, $8.2 million would come from a low-interest loan through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city would have to repay the loan and an estimated $2.8 million in interest.
Property-tax revenue generated by the parking garage should be sufficient to cover the repayment, said Greg Mitchell, the city's economic development director.
Members of the Housing and Community Development Committee who voted to support the grant said the project would provide much-needed housing in downtown Portland. The garage would be operated privately, an arrangement the committee liked.
Leeman said she supports the project overall but doesn't support the method for funding the garage. She said the city would pay about 70 percent of the construction cost but get very little in return. The city would be allotted 200 public spaces in the garage.
"I feel it's a lopsided deal," Leeman said. "I simply feel the city is not getting enough."
The size and scope of the whole project -- a preliminary sketch plan was presented to the committee -- would significantly change the look of Bayside.
Maritime Landing would be built on the site of the former New England Metal Recycling scrap yard on Somerset Street. It would need Planning Board approval and changes in the city's building height limits.
Seven towers, some as tall as 165 feet, would occupy the site. In addition to more than 1,000 parking spaces and two garages, the development could include as much as 91,000 square feet of retail space and 658 housing units.
Despite its size, Bayside residents who spoke at Wednesday's meeting said they support the project.
"It's going to be an economic boon to Bayside," said Thomas Blackburn.
"This will be a healthy move for Bayside in terms of adding more people to this neighborhood," said Ron Spinela.
Alex Landry, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said his group is "excited" about the project but is worried that the towers might encroach on or block access to the city's new Bayside Trail.
"The housing is going to lend life to this neighborhood," said Councilor Donoghue. "That's what the downtown needs and it's what Bayside needs."
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: