Thursday, April 17, 2014
By Randy Billings email@example.com
The Portland Planning Board’s public hearing on the ambitious development proposed for the Bayside neighborhood will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The project, which could take 10 years to complete, includes four high-rise buildings and two parking garages and could set the tone for future development in the former industrial area for years to come.
The Miami-based developer, the Federated Cos., is prepared to start construction early next year on a 15-story high-rise residential tower with more than 200 market-rate apartments and 700-vehicle parking garage, according to Greg Shinberg, who is representing the developer.
“We think we’ve come up with an excellent design,” Shinberg said. “It’s really going to create a neighborhood in that part of town.”
The project has prompted two local businessmen to form a group, Keep Portland Livable, to oppose the plan.
Peter Monro, a landscape architect, and Tim Paradis, a nonprofit consultant, said they will do everything in their power to stop the project, including appealing any approvals. The group has hired a lawyer and is raising funds for a legal fight. On Friday, they sent out a list of 11 talking points for criticizing the plan.
“The power to delay can be the power to destroy,” Monro said.
Federated Cos. is seeking approval of a master plan that would build four towers on 3.5 acres of city-owned land on Somerset Street.
The three-phase project – called “midtown” – 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.
Sharp divisions among within the Bayside Neighborhood Association have prevented the group from taking a stance on the project, said President Steve Hirshon, who personally supports the project.
Hirshon said a consensus emerged that the project is not perfect, especially the inclusion of the 700-car parking garage, which the city is requiring and contributing $9 million toward. That goes against the neighborhood’s master plan of building compact urban neighborhood that does not require vehicles and instead relies on walking, biking and using public transportation.
However, developers are required by their purchase and sale agreement to build the garage, Shinberg said.
For Hirshon, the promise of more than 200 market-rate apartments is too good to ignore. And the developers have genuinely engaged the neighborhood, he said.
“This may be good enough for now,” he said.
Cumberland Avenue resident Ron Spinella said he supports the “midtown” project, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the Bayside Trail or create any dangerous conditions.
However, Bayside resident Ross Furman opposes the development plan. Furman founded Skillful Vending in Bayside in 1976. He owns property on Marginal Way and Elm, Lancaster, Parris, Hanover and Brattle streets.
“My opinion is it’s just too much too fast,” Furman said. “I think it will just put a cloud over Bayside.”
The Portland Society of Architecture is critical of the project based on building heights and the lack of public access, but has not voted to formally oppose it.
In a statement released to the Press Herald, the group criticized city officials for not requiring three-dimensional models, which could illustrate how the development will fit in with the city.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @randybillings