November 12, 2013

Another View: Congress Square redesign is worth loss of ‘park’

The square has never been seriously developed, and the city’s decision to sell the park makes that possible.

OK, so on Election Day at my voting location I could have signed a petition to allow the citizens of Portland, and not the Portland City Council, to decide when it comes to selling any Portland public park. The petition had particular reference to Congress Square Park.

About the author

The Rev. Joseph R. McKenna is a resident of Portland.

I did not sign the petition even though last June I submitted a letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald proposing that Congress Square Plaza be redesigned as a natural grove of typical Maine low-growth flora (birches, low pines and scrub growth) from which the city of Portland was “carved.”

But since then I’ve changed my mind. The “park” (if you can call it that) is part of the entire area called Congress Square, one of the three main squares along Congress Street. It is an interesting confluence of five meeting points. It is the heart of the city. Because it was always crowded with shops, it has never been seriously developed (as have Monument Square and Longfellow Square). Now, for the first time in Portland’s history, the entire square, including the area in front of the Art Museum, can be “designed.”

Giving up two-thirds of “the park” will not hinder this process but rather enhance it. I understand that folks from the Portland Art Museum have some good ideas.

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