March 26, 2013

Our View: Bayside zoning change right call for Portland's future

New housing in neglected industrial lots would give the neighborhood what it needs most.

The Portland Planning Board made the right call on a difficult issue when it recommended a zoning change for the Federated Cos. midtown project, a proposed mixed-use development in Bayside.

The board approved the developer's request for taller buildings on the Somerset Street property, which would begin with a 180- to 190-unit apartment tower, parking garage and ground-level retail. The full plan calls for four towers, 675 units of housing and more retail and structured parking.

If approved by the council, the zone change would permit the towers to be 165 feet tall, making them among the tallest in the city. It was opposed by members of the neighborhood association, who felt this kind of development is out of step with "A New Vision for Bayside," a comprehensive planning document produced 13 years ago.

But while it may differ on the details, a key recommendation of the vision was bringing more housing into the neglected industrial parts of the neighborhood, and this project would certainly do that. The around-the-clock presence of a few hundred more neighbors could be what the neighborhood most needs. The City Council should approve the zone change and give this project a chance to succeed.


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