Neighborhood group seeks to stop campus expansion

PORTLAND — More than 100 residents – most with homes on the Western Promenade – gathered at a neighborhood church Monday evening to discuss the possible expansion of the Waynflete School campus.

Waynflete, a private kindergarten- through 12th-grade school located between Danforth and Spring streets, has been working on a long-range growth plan for more than a year and presented its options at the neighborhood meeting. The school faces opposition from some neighbors – including the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association – over the possibility it could acquire more properties near its campus.

About 550 students attend Waynflete, and Headmaster Mark Segar said while the school is not seeking to increase enrollment, it does want to improve its educational offerings and that requires expansion. He also denied rumors the school intends to become residential.

“We realize there are tension points (with neighbors),” Segar told the crowd at Williston West Church on Thomas Street. The school created a Community Consultation Committee a year ago to include neighbors in the development of expansion plans.

Scott Simons, an architect working with the school, presented two options for growth. The first showed what would happen if the school did not expand its campus, but instead built out its current property. That scenario would result in high density and taller buildings on the campus.

The second scenario, favored by the school, is to create a Waynflete overlay zone that would include seven surrounding properties the school could take over in the future. Those properties are mostly residential, although the school has included St. Louis Catholic Church on Danforth Street  in the zone. The church is still active, but Simons said the school could acquire it in the future and use it for classroom and lab space, as well as additional parking. 

At least one woman at the meeting said she is a parishioner of the church and had heard nothing of its possible sale. City Councilor David Marshall, who hosted the event, said after the meeting it was the first he had heard of the church’s involvement, too.

While speakers were split on whether Waynflete should expand farther into the neighborhood, Anne Pringle, speaking on behalf of the neighborhood association, said her group is against any expansion of the school and even suggested the school divest some of its property.

Pringle said there are trust issues between Waynflete and the neighborhood because the school said more than 20 years ago it would not increase its enrollment, but has.

Several close neighbors of the school, however, said they support campus expansion.

“A lot of the vibrancy of our neighborhood comes from the school,” said Peter Merrill, who lives across Spring Street from Waynflete.

While the most common complaint about future school growth involves on-street parking issues, some neighbors also said that the neighborhood feels empty at night.

Susan Roth, a Thomas Street resident, said she doesn’t like to walk by the school after dark anymore because it is desolate.

“At night the place is so empty and there is no sense of … human existence,” she said.

Lyle Voss, another Spring Street resident, suggested the school and neighbors work together on a compromise.

“This is not an either/or,” he said. “Waynflete needs to treasure the neighborhood, as well.”

Waynflete is expected to continue to work on its growth plan, while information gathered Monday night will be compiled by city staff and then brought back to the school and neighborhood at a future meeting.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]


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