December 4, 2013

Another View: Supply-and-demand argument doesn’t lend credence to Portland’s ‘midtown’

High-rises like the proposed development aren’t the way to meet middle-class housing needs.

By Tim Paradis of Portland

In his column supporting the proposed midtown project (“Fighting development in Portland remains a civic tradition,” Nov. 27), Greg Kesich seems to suggest that we cannot have a conversation about developing small blocks, with four- to eight-story buildings, in Bayside, because supply is tight and demand is growing for inner-city places to live and work. For several reasons, that’s an odd argument.

about the author

Tim Paradis of Portland is a co-founder of Keep Portland Livable.

To start, that’s exactly what’s happening in all the other peninsula neighborhoods; demand is driving the building of new low rises for a mix of housing, office and retail in every niche and cranny, as the Press Herald itself pointed out last Tuesday concerning Munjoy Hill (“Munjoy Hill building boom gets louder”).

Secondly, if the demand is so great, why do we taxpayers have to subsidize market-rate apartments and parking garages to the tune of $9 million of our dollars?

Third, it’s perplexing to suggest that only high-rise, high-priced apartments can provide the moderate-income housing the city needs to retain middle-class families.

By contrast, we who have started Keep Portland Livable embrace much of the in-scale, job-laced redevelopment that’s already occurring in Bayside, and particularly East Bayside, and elsewhere.

The real omission in Mr. Kesich’s column is any suggestion that midtown’s now-terrible design should be improved: It has no green or community space, no public throughways, it privatizes the Bayside Trailhead, the list goes on. It’s as if one were to argue that because there is a shortage of commercial space in the Old Port, it would be fine to drop a Walmart onto Post Office Park, without any modification to the Walmart template.

Those of us who beg to differ will say so at the Planning Board public hearing slated for Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. in City Hall.

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