For 178 Kennebec St., one of the six parcels open to development, the city staff is recommending a proposal for housing above space for retail shops or artists.

Seventy units of housing, a business incubator and work spaces for artisans and aspiring chefs are among the recommended uses for Portland’s former public works campus in Bayside.

City staff reviewed a variety of proposals and will formally present its recommendations to the City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.

The committee will have a public hearing to gather feedback on the proposed reuse of six parcels covering about 4 acres in Bayside, a neighborhood adjacent to downtown long in need of an influx of housing.

Committee members also will likely enter into a closed session to discuss possible sales prices, which have not yet been publicly disclosed. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 24 of City Hall.

“I think most of the councilors are pleased with the number of proposals we have received and the quality of the proposals,” said City Councilor David Brenerman, who leads the three-member committee. He noted that he may disagree with a few of the staff recommendations, but declined to elaborate, saying he did not want to compromise the city’s negotiating position.

“The fact that it’s a difficult decision indicates to me that these proposals are really good,” he said.

However, Mayor Ethan Strimling said Tuesday that the projects being recommended by staff do not go far enough to address the city’s housing shortage, so he may ask the council to seek another round of proposals. Strimling said he had not yet had the chance to discuss his concerns with many councilors.

“This housing crisis is not going to go away by itself,” Strimling said. “We have to have an honest conversation about whether we’re getting the best we possibly could.”

In May, the city received proposals from 11 developers for the six parcels on Hanover, Parris, Portland and Kennebec streets. The Economic Development Committee winnowed those proposals down and presented them to the public on June 27. It was the second public hearing about the future redevelopment.

The six parcels once used by the public works department and now open for development in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood are highlighted in green.

The staff recommendations could lead to about 70 new housing units for a range of income levels in West Bayside and lead to the development of 23 other units of housing in Parkside. At 178 Kennebec St., staff is recommending the city begin negotiating with Ross Furman, who has teamed up with housing developer Nathan Szanton to propose a 50-unit project, with 65 percent of the units being affordable to people earning 65 percent of the local median income and the remaining units being offered at market rate.

At 56 Parris St., staff is recommending Jack Soley’s “Periscope Lofts,” a four-story building with 20 one-bedroom condominiums. The units would average 400 square feet in size, but have tall ceilings and balconies. Soley, a co-founder of the East Brown Cow property management company, has said the units would sell for $200,000 or less, making them affordable to people earning up to 120 percent of the local median income. That price point is commonly referred to as workforce housing.

Tom Watson, a co-founder of Port Properties, the city’s largest property management firm, won the staff endorsement for his proposal to renovate the former General Store at 82 Hanover St. Watson plans to relocate his business to the former store, freeing up the company’s land at 104 Grant St. for redevelopment that would replace a single-story building with a four-story building with 23 apartments.

At 65 Hanover St., staff is recommending a proposal by Rory Strunk, of O’Maine Studios, for a “world-class culinary media and event center that has a global draw.” In addition to having a “Kick Start Kitchen” for incubating aspiring chefs, the building also could host food festivals.

Staff members are encouraging the committee to negotiate with Harold Pachios, who wants to renovate the former garage at 44 Hanover St. for use as start-up space for small businesses, as well as flexible spaces that could be used by artists, craftspeople and “beverage making.”

At 55 Portland St., staff is recommending Ford Reiche’s proposal to renovate that building into office space.

City Manager Jon Jennings said the staff recommendations represent a balanced mix of shovel-ready projects that would introduce a variety of new housing and economic opportunities to the area. “We’re not interested in selling properties and having them remain as parking lots, because the whole purpose of this is to create growth in the Bayside area,” Jennings said.

Steve Hirshon, president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said he was impressed by the quality of the proposals received by the city from reputable local developers. However, his preference would have been to move forward with a proposal by the West Bayside Development Group, a collaboration of Atlantic Bayside, Renewal Housing, Avesta Housing and Northland Enterprises. “They’ve all been known to do good things in the neighborhood,” Hirshon said.

The group gave the city a proposal to redevelop five of the six parcels, including 25-30 units of housing at 56 Parris St. that would target first-time homebuyers. That plan would require a $20,000- to $25,000-a-unit subsidy from either the city’s housing trust fund or through the city’s affordable housing tax increment financing, or TIF, program, which is essentially a discount on property taxes. The proposal also includes rental housing, food-related commercial and retail, and other commercial space.

Hirshon said the neighborhood needs more homeowners, and he disagrees with those who argue that the city land should be used solely to create affordable rentals.

Although Strimling said he may push for more housing, Brenerman said housing may not be an option for some of the parcels given their history as former industrial and commercial land that could require costly environmental clean up.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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