Friday, May 24, 2013
As much as I sympathize with the plight of the Maine lobstermen, anyone who has run their own business knows that there is high risk, whether it is due to a new competitor, loss of a key client, an economic downturn or other unforeseen, unplanned circumstance. Generally there is no one to bail out the small-business owner except banks or other financial institutions, who have been difficult to deal with, to say the least, over the past couple of years, in particular.
Lobsters are unloaded from a fishing boat in Portland last week.
The Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty
As per (the Aug. 9) headline concerning restaurant pricing ("Lobster prices hit record lows, but restaurants still charge top dollar"), I definitely am not sympathetic to the dealers and/or restaurant owners who are clearly taking advantage of the low lobster per-pound pricing in order to maximize their profits at the expense of the consumer. They are fortunate, as the article illustrates, that much of their summer business is driven by the visiting tourists, who either may not be aware of the reduced lobster prices or simply don't care.
Interesting that the Canadian lobstermen are complaining about the cheap Maine soft-shell lobsters that are "flooding" the New Brunswick lobster processing plants.
Canadian farmers have been "flooding" the Aroostook County farmers and processing plants with cheap subsidized potatoes for decades. Ditto for the Maine lumber industry. Go figure.
Considering options for Congress Square Park
Portland is noted for being one of the most livable cities in the country. This accolade is given for various reasons, the most important being the green and open spaces in the downtown area: Longfellow Square, Monument Square, Lincoln Park and the spacious vista at the intersection of Congress and High streets. This includes the esplanade before the museum, with a planting of birch trees, while across Congress Street is a beautiful open green space with some 20 or more full-grown trees of various species and shrubs.
The city of Portland has not always been a reliable custodian of public space as the recent "Tracing the Fore" fiasco in Boothby Square bears witness. Now, a hotel ballroom to replace a city park?
The city park by the Eastland Park Hotel is on the chopping block, with many of the beautiful trees to be chopped down for "commercial reuse" of the area.
There is still hope this will not happen. Citizens who enjoy a liveable Portland can join me by speaking out against this abuse of our public space. A call to City Hall is in order.
It has been suggested, as an alternative to the "ballroom" proposed by the Eastland Park Hotel's new owners, that Congress Square and adjacent buildings be redesigned and redeveloped as a "centerpiece" urban plaza.
This will necessitate: 1) raising the topographic elevation of the plaza paving 3 feet to that of Congress Street; 2) reconstructing/renovating the side wall of 593 Congress St.; 3) redesigning/reconstructing the south wall of the Eastland Park Hotel; and 4) redesigning/rebuilding the plaza.
Accordingly, the hotel would construct the proposed ballroom atop the existing south wing of the hotel (with a significant split-level landing at the plaza elevation). The hotel would build a three-story addition, with commercial and/or cultural elements, 20 to 30 feet into public land across the south face of the hotel, with a prominent hotel foyer at the plaza; 593 Congress St. would become a cafe/bakery, or similar such use, with a 90-foot expanse of windows and doors facing the plaza; terrace dining and patio cafe uses would be developed within the north and east edges of the plaza.
For skeptics who doubt the feasibility of such municipal/private-sector action and cooperation, please consider the demise and resurrection of Copley Square in Boston two-decades ago, employing the same grade-change strategy and reconstruction in front of the Copley Plaza Hotel and Boston Public Library.
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