The massive residential and retail development that could transform the Bayside neighborhood and ease Portland’s housing crunch received unanimous approval for its site plan Tuesday night from the Planning Board, on the condition the developer adjusts the design.

The board took issue with aspects of the plan, including the monolithic nature of the project’s largest building and the cornices on its rooftop, as well as the exterior material used on the ground floor of another.

Patrick Venne, who was representing developer The Federated Companies, wouldn’t comment on the conditions after the five-hour meeting.

“We’re going to have to understand what just happened,” he said.

The so-called “midtown” project would be built on 3.5 acres along Somerset Street between Pearl and Elm streets, a former industrial neighborhood next to Interstate 295 that has been home to rail yards, scrap yards and warehouses. The plan approved Tuesday calls for three six-story buildings with 445 market-rate apartments, and an 800-space parking garage with retail space on the first floors of all four structures.

The developer will have to return to the Planning Board with a new design before starting construction, which Venne said the Miami-based company hopes to do as soon as possible.


Call it another delay for the project originally proposed five years ago. A lawsuit over its original size, opposition from a neighboring business, design concerns among planning officials and more time needed by the developer all have contributed to the holdup. Frustrations about it came out in public comment Tuesday.

“I’d like to see this project get going, is what I’d like to do,” said Angelo Ciocca. The owner of Nova Seafood and Ebb and Flow restaurant in Portland, Ciocca is interested in moving into retail space in the project.

Chris O’Neil, the Portland Community Chamber’s liaison to City Hall, asked the board not to get caught up in the details.

“Let’s keep our eyes on the prize please,” he said.

Although Planning Board members said they supported the project, several weren’t satisfied with certain aspects of the buildings.

“They read as mediocrity,” said board member Jack Soley.


The board agreed to waive certain requirements on the condition that the developer make changes to the design, especially of the project’s largest building, which spans a city block. If the developer wouldn’t split that building into two, board members said, they wanted to see design elements to break up the facade. They also took issue with cornices that popped up from the top of roof and looked “glued on,” said board member Carol Morrissette.

The board voted 6-0, with new member David Eaton recusing himself, to approve the site plan with the conditions.

From the developer’s original proposal, approved by the board a year ago, the height of the buildings was reduced by more than half, the number of apartments was cut down from 650 and a second parking garage was eliminated after a group called Keep Portland Livable filed a lawsuit claiming that the project was out of scale with the city.

The new plan was the result of a settlement in October, but because the changes were significant, they required additional review from the city, which took issue with the initial design of the scaled-down version.

Adding to the complications was opposition to the city’s plan to raise Somerset Street by 2 feet in conjunction with the project’s construction, as part of its long-term goal of bringing the Bayside and East Bayside neighborhoods, where flooding is frequent, higher above sea level.

The family that owns the Noyes Self-Storage facility worried that raising the street would cause water to pool by the base of the building, penetrate the old brick walls and flood the first floor. The parties reached a solution before the meeting Tuesday.


Federated President Jonathan Cox had threatened to pull the project if it wasn’t approved in January, but backed away from that statement when the meeting was pushed to February. He later requested to postpone that meeting, moving the vote to Tuesday.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

Twitter: lesliebridgers

Correction: This story was revised at 10:36 a.m., March 4, 2015, to correctly spell the name of Angelo Ciocca, the owner of Nova Seafood and Ebb and Flow restaurant in Portland. His name was misspelled in a previous version.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.