Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PORTLAND — The Planning Board gave final approval Tuesday night to plans for The Forefront at Thompson's Point, clearing the way for construction to begin this summer on a $105 million project featuring an arena for the Maine Red Claws and other sporting events.
Board members voted 4-0 to approve the project's site plan and subdivision plan.
According to the development group's latest filing with the city's planning department, the project includes a 3,500- to 4,800-seat event center, a hotel, a sports medicine facility, a parking garage, a restaurant and two office buildings.
The event center, hosting the professional basketball team, would be the key piece of the project.
The complex would be built on about 30 acres adjacent to the Portland Transportation Center -- the site of the Downeaster train station and the Concord Trailways bus terminal.
"It has been a year of review (by the city), and we are excited to be at the point of concluding that process and getting under way with construction," Christopher Thompson, one of three partners in Thompson's Point Development Co., told the Planning Board.
Thompson's partners are Jon Jennings, president and general manager of the Maine Red Claws NBA Development League team, and William Ryan Jr., chairman of the Red Claws.
After the vote, Thompson said the only other thing his development group needs from the city is a building permit.
Thompson said the Maine Department of Transportation has given preliminary approval for a traffic movement permit. The project also needs a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
There was no discussion Tuesday of who some of the tenants might be.
City officials said the project has been thoroughly reviewed. The Planning Board held four workshops, culminating most recently with the city's planning staff recommending approval.
A public hearing preceded Tuesday's vote; none of the four speakers opposed the project.
Planning Board members Carol Morrissette, Bill Hall, Timothy Dean and Patrick Venne each voted in support of the project.
"My only reservation is, this is such a huge project," Morrissette said, noting the lack of comment from the public and the board. "Have we really done that good a job?"
Dean encouraged the developers "to be bold" in their architectural and building designs because the property, jutting into the Fore River, is clearly visible from Interstate 295.
"It's a high-visibility project at the gateway to the city," Dean noted.
Steve Bushey, the senior engineer from DeLuca-Hoffman Associates of South Portland, said the project has had several revisions since it was introduced to the city last year.
One new feature is a boat ramp and dock at the south end of the property that would allow people to park their cars and use their kayaks or canoes.
There also would be a pedestrian walkway leading into the site from Congress Street and the Fore River Parkway.
"The size and scale of this project is somewhat equivalent to Monument Square," Bushey said. "It's going to cover a big area that will present a lot of opportunities."
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: email@example.com