The Portland Planning Board is expected to vote Tuesday on a project that would add 29 new townhouse condominiums on Munjoy Hill.

Beyond adding new homes in a highly coveted neighborhood where housing development is booming, a board approval could set a new precedent for designing neighborhood streets.

If approved, Munjoy Heights would establish the city’s first shared street – where pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all have equal rights to the roadway – a concept known to the Dutch as “woonerf.” Instead of asphalt, the road would be made of concrete pavers and have benches, giving it a plaza-like feel.

“We think this will set a good precedent for Portland,” said Jamie Parker, the trails manager for Portland Trails, which advocated for innovative design.

City planners have expressed interest in the woonerf concept. The idea first arose during discussions about redesigning the intersection of High, Congress and Free streets, known as Congress Square.

The city recently selected the Boston-based Klofer Martin Design Group to lead redesign efforts for Congress Square and its sidewalks and plazas, prioritizing the pedestrian experience. The firm is also asked to explore the concept of a shared-use space.

“The woonerf is a very progressive model for street design that we hope will catch on in Portland. The project will serve as an interesting pilot,” said Jonathan Culley, owner of Redferns Properties, which is developing Munjoy Heights.

Munjoy Heights is planned for 1½ acres of currently wooded land off Walnut Street, where there is a trail known as Jack Path.

Since Portland Trails did not have an easement, Parker said he initially feared the development would eliminate the trail, which connects Walnut Street to Washington Avenue and the East End Community School.

“It’s an important part of our network in the neighborhood,” Parker said.

Culley, however, worked with Portland Trails early on to maintain public access.

Redferns Properties will provide Portland Trails and the city with a permanent easement, so the public can continue using the trail, Culley said. He is also building a series of steps down a steep embankment to connect the trail to East Cove Street and ultimately to Washington Avenue.

Most of the written comments sent to the city as of Friday support the project. However, a few residents voiced opposition because the project involves clear-cutting the existing woods and could displace the wildlife there.

While the project would clear-cut most of the trees standing today, Culley notes that the existing trees are mainly non-native invasive species, such as Norway maple.

The project includes an aggressive landscaping plan, he said, adding nearly 70 trees (mostly red maples and London planetrees) and nearly 700 scrubs, all of which are native species.

“We think our project will improve the urban ecology,” Culley said.

If the project is approved, construction could begin by February and be finished in late 2014, said Culley, noting 16 of the 29 units have prospective buyers.

The meeting Tuesday will start at 7 p.m. in Room 209 at City Hall.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings

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