September 14, 2013

Letters to the editor: Sale best option for Congress Square

As we head into the final council vote on Sept. 16 regarding the sale of a portion of Congress Square Plaza, I was compelled to write.

click image to enlarge

A plan to sell part of Congress Square Plaza and build an events center there will revitalize the neighborhood, says the nearby State Theatre’s general manager.

2013 File Photo/Tim Greenway

As the general manager of the State Theatre -- an active neighbor of the Plaza and the Eastland (Westin) hotel since our reopening in 2010 -- I'd like to voice my support of the redevelopment of a section of Congress Square Park into an events center by Rockbridge, as well as my concern over the city's long-term re-visioning of the plaza at the intersection of Congress and High streets.

(We do not support the removal of any metered parking spaces or making High Street a two-way avenue.)

The State Theatre supports the Westin in its endeavor to redevelop part of Congress Square Park into a new events center. As its neighbor, it's my view that Congress Square Park is a failed public space that sits underutilized. 

Due to its current design, the park is difficult to keep safe and isn't inviting to visitors of the Arts District -- the most concerning behavior to us as a neighboring business being altercations with our theater patrons, public urination and public intoxication. 

As an arts promoter in Portland for the past 12 years, I see the possibility of a new events center at Congress Square serving as a unique and critical opportunity that would benefit the city, neighboring businesses and the hotel -- essential to the vitality of this location and the Portland area.

Allowing the hotel to develop an events center on the Congress Square site, while keeping some of the square as a public space, is part of this successful formula that we wholeheartedly support.

Lauren Wayne

general manager, State Theatre


All this talk about other alternatives for Congress Square Park is a waste of time.

Unless the space is transformed totally, what could possibly make it better? It would still be a magnet for the city's overwhelming tribe of vagrants. A few planters, benches and decorative what-nots won't change anything.

This is one of the most blighted parts of Congress Street. That the hotel is making such a huge investment in the area behooves them to take over the space at the square.

I do believe, however, they're paying too little for the land. They should ante up $1 million and close the deal!

John Golden


Toll plaza well-equipped to handle holiday traffic

In a letter to the editor of Sept. 5 ("Heavy traffic will drive away would-be visitors to Maine"), a writer stated that the Maine Turnpike had only three lanes open at York to handle traffic leaving Maine on Labor Day.

In fact, the turnpike had eight lanes open southbound all that day and into the evening until traffic had cleared. Three lanes were for E-ZPass, and five more were for both cash and E-ZPass.

While highways into southern Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are often jammed on Labor Day, the toll plaza itself is always fully manned and does not usually contribute to the backups.

Delays are caused primarily by heavy traffic on constricted highways and bridges from Kittery all the way into Boston.

The best remedy for weekend visitors is to enjoy an extra day in Maine and drive home at the beginning of the workweek .

P.S. Any member of the public wanting to discuss turnpike business may call me on my cell at 858-6400.

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