August 12, 2013

Another View: Equilibrium necessary in mixed uses of waterfront

Protection of maritime character should be balanced with development.

By MARK REES

In a recent editorial ("Our View: A season of change for the working waterfront," July 29), the Portland Press Herald voiced optimism and concern over two developments along the city's waterfront.

click image to enlarge

Employees grade and pack lobster at Ready Seafood on the Maine State Pier in Portland in 2011. The city’s lease agreements with Ready Seafood and Shucks Maine Lobster reflect municipal officials’ willingness to find “ways to expand opportunity for development while protecting working waterfront uses,” says City Manager Mark Rees.

2011 File Photo/Carl D. Walsh

The piece correctly highlights the ever-changing dynamics along Commercial Street and the need to ensure that the city finds ways to expand opportunity for development while protecting working waterfront uses. Threading this needle has, and continues to be, a priority.

We need to protect and balance the character-defining maritime uses that our city was built upon with other development that increasingly characterizes the 21st-century economy.  I believe that through a variety of policies, we have achieved to some degree this equilibrium: a mixed-use waterfront that supports our marine-based industries.

These policies recently paid off with lease agreements with Ready Seafood and Shucks Maine Lobster, who have both made a home at the Maine State Pier and whose prosperity benefits the state's maritime industries, employs hundreds and pays dividends to the local economy.

Also in keeping with the city's efforts to strike the right balance, the Planning Board approved an amended site plan, consistent with the Waterfront Central Zone, which mandates that at least 55 percent of the first floor of the Cumberland Cold Storage building be occupied by marine uses, providing pier owners some flexibility to occupy the remaining 45 percent with other uses.

Action taken during the budget process to fund a waterfront coordinator best demonstrates the city's commitment to developing and adopting thoughtful, pragmatic policies that recognize the city's working waterfront as a valued city asset.

This position will report directly to me, and be charged with advancing policies that support the working waterfront. I am confident that this direct line to the city's decision-makers will ensure that our working waterfront remains a priority.

Maintaining a dynamic waterfront that values the many industries for which our piers are their lifelines is critical for Portland's future.

Mark Rees is city manager of Portland.

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