February 25

Another View: Kesich column on Munjoy Hill badly missed the boat

The choice is not the St. Lawrence Arts Center or nothing; it’s whether a regional theater belongs in a residential neighborhood.

By Stephen Gaal

I read with disappointment Greg Kesich’s column on the proposed St. Lawrence Arts Center addition (“Stagnation a steep price to pay for free and easy parking,” Feb. 12).

about the author

Stephen Gaal is a resident of Portland.

I regularly read his columns and often find myself in agreement with his views, but he badly missed the boat in this one. He resorted to a time-honored rhetorical device: setting up a false choice to drive you in the direction he wants. We do not have a choice of stagnation on Munjoy Hill or St.Lawrence addition. As Mr. Kesich should be aware, Munjoy Hill is arguably the most vibrant neighborhood in Portland, enjoying a resurgence unmatched anywhere else in the city. No stagnation here.

The issue is whether or not it is appropriate to put a regional performing arts center in the middle of a residential district. The proposed St. Lawrence addition would result in a venue with the capacity for 721 people, 485 of whom could be in attendance at any one event.

This compares to the current capacity of 110. To put this in perspective, the proposed facility would, for a single event, have nearly twice as many people as a full house at Portland Stage and nearly 2½ times as a full house at One Longfellow Square.

And make no mistake, it is in a residential district. That is the only reason the Planning Board gets to decide on the fate of this project.

There are many other issues to take up in Mr. Kesich’s column. I will leave them for others.

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