Nine groups and individuals are vying for the chance to transform a section of Portland’s Bayside Trail into the city’s long-awaited Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, and some hope to woo the city with ideas such as the use of audio, mobile apps and lights.

The applicants include architects, artists and landscape architects. All but two applicants are Maine-based. And all hope to be chosen later this year to begin work on the city’s tribute to the slain civil rights leader.

“(Dr. King ) is one of my great heroes,” said Roger Richmond, a South Freeport architect who submitted an application. “I have unbelievable respect for him.”

Efforts to memorialize Dr. King began again in 2017 after a task force recommended that a public space be renamed in honor of King. The task force suggested constructing a memorial on Portland’s Bayside Trail, which is a mile long and runs from Elm Street to the Eastern Promenade.

Portland’s monument has been in the works on and off for 37 years. A  task force in 2008 first pushed for a memorial near the Bayside Trail. At the time, the trail had not been constructed and was in the planning stages.

The panel later received seven proposals, selected finalists and launched a campaign to raise $750,000 for the memorial. But efforts for the memorial fizzled during the Great Recession after funding dried up.


This year, about a decade later, the city asked for a new round of applications from artists, architects, landscape architects or teams engaged with public art, site-responsive design, project management and construction administration.

Of the nine applicants, seven artists are located in southern Maine. One out-of-state application was submitted by Ironwood Design Group – a landscape architecture firm located in New Hampshire. The other out-of-state application was submitted by Adam Weidmann, an artist who currently lives in California but previously lived in the Portland area for over a decade.

Applicants were asked to submit artist information, an artist statement, past work samples, references and a project vision that explains the artist’s conception of the memorial’s significance.

The committee did not request a complete design in the application.

According to a statement from the city, the memorial is intended to inspire visitors to reflect on King’s legacy.  The city encouraged applicants to think beyond a plaza and statue design to include programmatic elements, such as an interactive and educational component.

While not required, some applicants included general concepts or ideas that they hope to incorporate if they are selected.


Most include a social space that would invite visitors to stop and engage with King’s memorial. Two applications proposed a community amphitheater.

Some applicants say they hope to incorporate technology into the memorial. Artist Robert Katz and his team conceptualized a digital app that would allow viewers to hear short excerpts of King’s speeches and see topical artifacts on a mobile device.

Ironwood Design Group conceptualized features that would project light and sound. The application envisioned structures that would cast King’s words and different images on the Bayside Trail. According to the application, the structures would also project music or recordings of King’s speeches.

As for community programming, one firm, TJD&A Landscape Architects and Planners, a Yarmouth-based landscape architecture and planning firm that planned the Bayside Trail, proposed a collaboration between two art nonprofit organizations: Mayo Street Arts and TEMPOart.

In general, artists expressed interest in incorporating sunlight and the existing landscape into the memorial.

One applicant – Roger Richmond, an architect and founder of the architecture program at the University of Maine in Augusta – has entered designs in previous competitions to memorialize King, including the national memorial in Washington, D.C.


Growing up in Florida in the 1950s, Richmond said he saw prejudice and segregation every day. He said King’s message resonated with him as a Jewish youth growing up in an area that was racially and religiously biased.

Richmond, a South Freeport resident, designed the Maine Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Capitol Park in Augusta. Most of his works, both conceptualized and constructed, emphasize shadow and light.

Richmond said his MLK design proposal for the Cambridge Square project in Boston was selected and scheduled to be built, but the project was placed on permanent hold after the chairwoman leading the project was not re-elected.

Over the last 37 years, there have been other efforts to commemorate King in Portland. In 2017, the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee discussed changing the name of Franklin Street to honor King, but that idea was tabled.

The city has allocated $100,000 for the creation of the memorial along the Bayside Trail. The funds became available after the sale of city-owned property.

Some applicants said they believe the $100,000 is low for a project of this scale.


Richmond said he would stick to the budget as best he could, but if he felt that if necessary, he would personally contribute.

The owner and principal architect of Ironwood Design Group, Jeffrey Hyland, said materials that will last longer might require more funding. He said that if his design was selected and was over the budget amount, his firm would help with marketing. Another possibility would be to construct the project in phases.

This is not the first time Ironwood has made a pitch to Portland. In 2010, Ironwood Landscape Architecture drafted a proposal for a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial located near the Bayside Trail. Months later, the firm received a letter from the city of Portland saying its design was chosen as one of three finalists.

But, after receiving the letter, the landscape architecture firm never heard from the city, and the project never came to fruition.

Nine years since the first proposal was submitted, officials at Ironwood Landscape Architecture saw Portland’s most recent call for a commemorative design in the Press Herald.

After slightly adjusting the design, they submitted their proposal again. This time, they’re hoping for a different outcome. The firm feels the message of the memorial is still the same.

“We are trying to create … an environment people can interact with,”  Hyland said. “We want to create something that remains with (visitors) after they leave.”

A committee of nine, led by City Councilor Jill Duson and Kenneth Lewis, pastor at the Green Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church on Sheridan Street, will select three finalists on July 22 in the City Council chambers. Finalists will be awarded $2,500 to draft a completed proposal. The committee is expected to announce the selected artist in January.

Although King never visited Portland, he did speak in Brunswick and Biddeford. The University of Maine dedicated its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza on the Orono campus on the 40th anniversary of King’s death.

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