The city of Portland has only a few ways to actively steer the development of the Bayside neighborhood.

City planners engaged the community in a public process that created the “Bayside Vision,” a comprehensive plan for the blighted neighborhood. And then the vision was turned into zoning ordinances, channeling growth.

The city still has one more bullet left in its gun to make a big impact — ownership of a former rail yard that runs through the heart of the district.

Last week, city officials announced that they had worked out a deal to sell the rail yard to Federated Cos. for $2.3 million. The development company plans to build apartments, stores, offices and a parking garage on the property, which extends from Elm Street to Pearl Street. This news drew a complaint from a representative of the University of New England, which had previously approached the city about using part of the property for a dental school.

Apparently, the two sides could never come to terms and the Federated deal came along. But even if both proposals were equally solid, the city would still be making the right choice.

First, there is the issue of revenue. By selling the property to Federated, Portland puts it back on the tax rolls. If UNE were the buyer, it would have been tax-exempt, although the university could have made payments and supplied charity dental services in lieu of taxes. Still, the city’s position was put best by council member John Anton, who said, “I need another tax-exempt institution in Portland like I need a hole in my head.”

And aside from taxes, the city has more to gain from the uses proposed by the private company. Maine certainly needs a dental school and Portland would be a great location, but Bayside needs the kind of around-the-clock presence a mixed-use development that includes market-rate housing would provide. A residential presence close to the downtown business district and the retail developments already in Bayside would make the streets safer and give the neighborhood what it has lacked. A dental school, used mostly in the daytime, would not add as much.

The city has few bullets left when it comes to Bayside redevelopment. This proposed land sale looks like a clean bull’s eye.