June 19, 2013

Letters to the editor: City should treasure Congress Square

The city of Portland has never been known for keeping its treasures for the next generations.

click image to enlarge

Union Station is razed in 1961. A reader says the city should keep the railroad station’s fate in mind during the decision about Congress Square Plaza.

1961 Gannett Publishing File Photo/Donald Johnson

Union Station was a pretty building that was allowed to be torn down for what exists in its place today. I would not say that's a compliment to our city fathers.

The clock in the little park on Congress Square should be returned to where Union Station used to be as a reminder to the city not to make the same mistakes again.

I do not believe that part of the little park on Congress Square should be sold. I suggest instead that we turn it into Mariners Plaza, with a statue similar to the one in Portland, Ore., which they call "Portlandia," with some flowing water and a bell that would ring out the time of day as they do aboard ships.

Portland, Maine, located on the sea, has always welcomed mariners home, and this would serve as a small tribute to all of them.

Harold Nicknair
South Portland


The impending decision to sell Congress Square Park, a public use area across from the Portland Museum of Art, to the new owners of the former Eastland Hotel for an events center has roused me to action.

I do not understand a) why this gigantic building needs an addition, nor b) the desirability of a convention center in the middle of town. New jobs, visitors' spending money: I get it. The conflict of profit against people is certainly not new.

Admittedly, Congress Square is not exactly a charming little park. There are no plantings, really, and some questionable characters. However, it is precious open urban space.

Portland is built to human scale. The four diverse squares at intervals along Congress Street are one of the appeals of walking this main street, providing visual and useful variety.

Once gone, such spaces are nearly impossible to reclaim. I remember that it took a fire in 1980 to create this space. It seems counterproductive to the development of our city to delete a potentially attractive element from the Arts District.

In her 1961 book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," Jane Jacobs states principles for desirable urban growth: "Design is people. ... Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."

In brief, her point is that cities are best when allowed to develop organically, built to meet the needs of their people for air, space and diversity, not to gratify greed.

Improvements to Congress Square Park with the intent to enhance its appeal and increase the park as a place for everyone to enjoy would be preferable, ultimately attracting more people to businesses here and to invest in a city that draws people with its personal flavor.

Suzanne Laberge


Who will pay for schooling outside student's district?


On June 12, Eric Russell reported on a change on school choice as it pertains to L.D. 530 ("Bill on student transfer appeals OK'd").

There are really two separate issues in this debate on a student's right to transfer to another out-of-district school, even if the district in which the student lives has its own high school.

Gov. LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen believe that a student should be free to choose where they want to attend school. Since we live in a free market society where we have choices for everything, it makes sense to be able to choose a school that fits the needs of both student and caregivers.

The rub, however, is who pays for this choice. The answer should be: the district where the student resides, not the district that receives the student.

(Continued on page 2)

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