While city leaders are celebrating the infusion of commercial buildings and housing units proposed for the city’s eastern waterfront, some nearby residents on Munjoy Hill are worried about the project’s impact on views of the water and traffic in the hilltop neighborhood.

A group of local developers plans to transform the 10-acre industrial parcel at 58 Fore St. into six blocks of housing, shops, a hotel, restaurants, high-class office space, a marina and public open space. The project has been in the works for more than two years, and CPB2 submitted a long-awaited master development plan to the city for the former Portland Co. railroad foundry this week. Construction is estimated to cost $250 million.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said after the plan was formally unveiled at a news conference Wednesday morning. “A quarter-billion investment in the waterfront is something that I’m going to be watching very closely because this could be really game-changing down here. But I want to make sure there is a robust community process, so people have the chance to give input.”

Pam Macomber, who has lived with her husband, Peter, across Fore Street from the Portland Co. complex for four years, said the detailed renderings show a more massive plan than she expected from earlier meetings with the developer. While the plans call for waterfront access through a 50-foot-wide easement and view corridors at Kellogg, Waterville, St. Lawrence and Atlantic streets, she said both private homeowners and passing pedestrians would lose vistas of the ocean.

“I think it’ll change the hill in probably not a good way,” Macomber said. “I think Portland is going to lose its sense of being connected to the water.”

Jim Brady, a CPB2 partner, said the firm will hold a neighborhood meeting Oct. 4 to discuss the plans with neighbors. The developers also will begin meeting with the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Board next month.

New buildings for housing, offices and other uses would be built around historic brick buildings at the former Portland Co. complex. Rendering by Perkins+Will of Boston

New buildings for housing, offices and other uses would be built around historic brick buildings at the former Portland Co. complex. Rendering by Perkins+Will of Boston

“We very much look forward to working together with the city of Portland, the community of residents here, to hear their concerns and do everything we can to allay their fears and concerns,” Brady said at the news conference. “We’re excited about what this can do for the city of Portland.”

Brady’s rough estimate of the project’s cost is based on nearly one million square feet of development at $200 per square foot, plus parking, open space and the marina, he said.


Like Strimling, community leaders and other elected officials reacted warmly to their first look at the expansive project.

Chris Hall, president of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he “couldn’t be happier” about the Portland Co. proposal.

“It’s visually stunning, but it is also, in scale and scope, in keeping with the surrounding neighborhood,” Hall said. “I’m very encouraged by their flexible and creative approach.”

“Whether you’re looking from the land side or the water side, whether you’re looking at it from the housing side or a business side, it really is a bold and ambitious project,” he said.

Belinda Ray, who represents the East End on the City Council, said she would be reviewing the proposal.

“It obviously represents a huge change for the waterfront in that area,” she said. “I’m sure it will be shocking to many people, but it’s important that we keep the long-term goals of Portland in mind as we consider this development.”

Those goals include housing and more office space, she said.

Jay Norris, president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Association, called the project “exciting” and “innovative.” He hoped, however, that the developers would be respectful to concerns about parking and scenic views in the area.

“Portland is in a vortex now of change and growth and development,” he said. “I hope that as the property continues to be developed that they’ll keep first and foremost in their minds the neighbors to that property.”

Strimling noted the 638 units of rental and owner-occupied housing in the initial plans. While he acknowledged the concerns from some neighbors about views, the mayor said CPB2 has addressed that issue in its plan.

“They’re meeting the expectations,” Strimling said. “I’m always looking for developers to go above and beyond to accommodate the community as best they can. So hopefully, as they hear from people, they’ll get a better sense of what going above and beyond might look like, but in the end, we need this site developed.”

Nearby residents in the area have opposed this project before and even forced a citywide referendum last year to protect their views and set up a process for protecting other views as the city sees more and taller development.

That citywide vote failed, but the master development plan from CPB2 could revive those tensions over the City Council’s decision to rezone upper Fore Street to allow taller buildings and more uses. The tallest buildings in the plan would rise nearly eight stories east of Waterville Street.

The Macombers reviewed the previous zoning standards four years ago when they bought their home, which she said they used their life savings to renovate.

“It used to be that zoning was a guarantee that what’s going to happen around you, you can understand,” Pam Macomber said. “The zoning that’s there now, we probably wouldn’t have bought the property.”

Barbara Vestal, who was involved with the group advocating for last year’s ballot measure, said she was “very troubled” by the renderings she has seen so far.

“Those height calculations will certainly need to be examined in great detail,” she said. “In addition, regardless of whether or not they meet zoning technicalities, this out-of-scale proposal puts great responsibility on the Planning Board and concerned citizens to engage in a robust dialogue with CPB2 to make sure that a master development plan is not approved until it is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.”


Will Williams, a landlord who also lives on St. Lawrence Street, said he is excited to see new life on the former industrial land. While the proposal calls for 435,200 square feet of parking, his worry was an increase in traffic on the surrounding streets like his own.

“I’d personally prefer not to see the Old Port come up here,” he said, referring to the bustling tourist and commercial district several blocks to the west. “I’d hate to come home and fight for a parking space in my own neighborhood.”

On Wednesday morning, JoAnn Dowe sat on her deck on Waterville Street with a friend, and the two women watched sailboats and a cruise ship in the distance.

“I’m feeling like I’m going to be moving, that’s how I’m feeling,” she said. When Dowe moved into her house in 2009, she was attracted to the view and the “old-world neighborhood” feel of Munjoy Hill.

“There is a lot of change here,” she said. “I’m not sure I feel the same way anymore.”

A neighborhood meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 at 58 Fore St. The developers will begin meeting with the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Board in October for a series of required workshops and hearings, and the first phase of the project could be under construction next summer.

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this report.


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