A committee is expected later this month to chose artists and architects to submit formal proposals for a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Bayside Trail in Portland. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The city has long desired a way to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but efforts in the past have failed to come to fruition.

Now, city and community leaders are in the process of choosing someone from the art and architecture community to create a lasting tribute to the civil rights leader in a plaza proposed along the Bayside Trail, near the corner of Marginal Way and Franklin Street.

The city released a request for qualifications in May to see what vision artists, architects and landscape architects might have for the area of the 1-mile trail that runs from Elm Street to the Eastern Promenade.

Jessica Grondin, the city’s director of communications, said nine applications were received. The MLK Memorial Selection Committee will review those applications and select finalists at its 6 p.m. on July 22 in City Council chambers. The meeting will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. tour of the proposed site.

The location on the trail was chosen earlier this year by a task force led by City Councilor Pious Ali. It confirmed a decision made more than a decade ago.

“It is a fitting location to memorialize the work of Dr. King,” Ali said earlier following a meeting of the council Sustainability & Transportation Committee earlier this year. “It will be a reminder of him every time you walk by.”

The group also considered sites at Congress Square Park, Fort Sumner Park on North Street, and in the proposed Portland Landing waterfront site, just east of Ocean Gateway.

The memorial, according to the city, is “intended to inspire visitors to reflect on Dr. King’s life and the values he espoused, prompting everyone to consider how they can contribute to realizing his vision of an equitable and fair society.” It would be funded with $100,000 in proceeds from the sale of city-owned property.

The site could include “a large, sculpted open space” with seating and perhaps a children’s play area, according to the committee’s request for qualifications.

Up to three finalists will be asked to develop proposals, with visuals and budgets. They will be interviewed in November or December, and asked to make formal presentations available for public comment.

The committee, led by Councilor Jill Duson and Kenneth Lewis, pastor at the Green Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church on Sheridan Street, is expected to announce its choice by next January.

“I’m excited and honored to co-chair the final process to select and site a fitting recognition to acknowledge and honor Dr. King and his life’s work,” Duson said in a statement announcing the RFQ.

“A monument to the life and legacy of Dr. King will serve as a special place of reflection and inspiration for all Maine people,” Lewis said.

It is unknown if the MLK memorial will be part of the collection of the city’s Public Arts Committee.

Interest in constructing a memorial to King has been going on for more than a decade. In 2008, the Bayside Trail was chosen as a suitable site and in 2009, a 17-member task force was formed to create a design. The group issued a request for qualifications in 2010, but the process eventually stalled.

In early 2017, the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee discussed changing the name of Franklin Street to honor King. The idea had the support of committee members, but wasn’t supported by the public and the name was never changed.

There has also been talk about renaming King Middle School after the civil rights leader, but the School Board tabled that request. The school, on Deering Avenue, is named for Helen M. King, a longtime principal at Clifford Elementary School.

Grondin said the memorial on the Bayside Trail “is the sole focus for honoring MLK at this time.”


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