In 2002, I was proud to serve with a diverse group of other community volunteers, neighborhood leaders, expert consultants and city planners in creating the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan for the area of Portland bounded by Franklin, Middle, Hancock, Federal, Mountfort and Fore streets.

This thorough and thoughtful plan is grounded in sound urban planning and represents years of effort. It included an extensive process of public engagement, focused on encouraging participation and feedback, and it carefully balanced the multitude of competing community interests.

Because of its thoroughness and careful balancing of interests, and because it is the best expression of the community’s wishes for the eastern waterfront, this policy statement was adopted and incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan.

Reading the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan again recently, I am struck at how timeless the principles we arrived at are:

 “Development within the eastern waterfront will be compatible with the surrounding areas, neighborhoods, natural environment and maritime uses.”

 “Development within the eastern waterfront will create a vital and active mixed use urban area that generates life and use every day of the year and all hours of the day.”

 “Development in the eastern waterfront on piers, bulkheads and on land within 75 feet of (the) mean high water line will give priority to compatible water-dependent and maritime uses.”

 “Development in the eastern waterfront will provide a significant benefit to the city and regional economy.”

The Portland Co. property is a unique and special 10-acre parcel on Portland’s eastern waterfront that, with the right vision, has tremendous potential to bring even greater value to the waterfront experience for all Portland residents, as well as our visitors.

In 2013, a local development group led by Jim Brady and Casey Prentice purchased the Portland Co. from Phineas Sprague (a transaction that, notably, was a catalyst for even further positive marine and rail development on the western waterfront).

The Eastern Waterfront Master Plan should be the guide for the Portland Co.’s new owners, as it is such a clear expression of the public’s vision for the future of that important piece of property.

The Eastern Waterfront Master Plan is clear in its directive: “The Master Plan envisions new development in the area to be an amenity and an asset to neighborhood residents, the greater City, and the visiting public. … An integrated Master Plan allows the City to support the working waterfront, promote economic development, and enhance and protect our residential neighborhoods.”

To achieve the community’s stated goals, the new owners of the Portland Co. have applied to the Portland Planning Board for a change to the property’s zoning.

The application proposes to extend the adjacent mixed use and waterfront port zones over the Portland Co. parcels. This is entirely in keeping with the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, which expressly envisioned that it would serve as “the policy basis for future zoning amendments necessary to implement the plan.”

This rezoning is an important first step in a long process toward fulfilling the community vision of the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan. Furthermore, the proposed new zoning embraces and is consistent with “best practice” standards of urban planning and development.

Finally, rezoning this property would make its future redevelopment economically viable and help accomplish a number of the Portland City Council’s current Common Goals.

It’s understandable that people have questions about redevelopment of this site. Fortunately, because of the city’s foresight, the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan exists as a guide and reflects the whole community’s interests, not those of just a few.

There’s also a clearly defined city planning and site development process in place that ensures that these community interests will be adhered to.

The city of Portland and the waterfront community have an opportunity to see the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan become a reality. We have a local redevelopment team that is willing and able to move this vision forward. We, as a community, should come together, and work together, to ensure the successful redevelopment of this critical waterfront site to the city of Portland.