December 8, 2012

Another View: Proposed Munjoy Hill theater out of scale for neighborhood

A large, modern cube is a poor replacement for a historic church.

By RALPH and VANA CARMONA

The proposal covered by the Press Herald ("Proposed music venue stirs debate on Munjoy Hill," and "'Fascist' or elegant? Proposed Portland arts venue draws mixed reaction" on Dec. 5 and 6) for the addition of a theater to the historic St. Lawrence Church is attractive and the proponents believe they have the community in mind. However, we believe it is inappropriate for Munjoy Hill and more compatible with a Portland central business district.

The proposal also raises questions about parking, traffic, multiple use and revenue benefit. None of these were addressed at a recent City Hall workshop. Where are the 450-plus attendees for this facility's events going to park? How do consequent traffic flows impact Munjoy Hill's walkable neighborhood? Are there multiple public uses and revenues beyond entertainment?

Then there is the project's precedent-setting nature. The Friends of St. Lawrence Church executive director and architect openly acknowledged their proposal need not be Munjoy Hill neighborhood compatible. They believe existing block-types buildings justify their proposal, even though none come close to their proposal's scope and style. Missed in all this is the potential future triggering of similar, likely less creative, big-box efforts.

This proposal threatens to bring Munjoy Hill full circle on urban renewal efforts impacting unique neighborhoods, where profit trumps historic preservation.

Financial gain for proponents is sufficient justification for a boxy, 54-foot-tall metal-sided building to replace a historic church sanctuary and bell tower. Their $7 million price tag is highly questionable and not a shred of benefit data was provided that supports the proposal's long-term financial feasibility. Airy rhetoric supporting this proposal requires facts.

A public hearing is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the East End Community School. We encourage Munjoy Hill residents to come and inform themselves about a project that will impact our lives.

Ralph and Vana Carmona live on Munjoy Hill in Portland.

 

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