Portland Planning Board members got a first look Tuesday at a major redevelopment proposed for the Bayside neighborhood that calls for 804 new housing units along with commercial and retail space spanning seven city blocks.

Board members spent over two hours discussing the proposal, which is being brought forward by West Bayside Partners and Port Property Management, and heard feedback from a dozen people who expressed both support and concerns.

Tuesday’s meeting was the board’s first look at the master development plan for the project. A master development plan is an optional planning tool that can be used to outline large, multi-phase projects prior to more-detailed site plan reviews.

“We will have multiple meetings on this project,” said Planning Board Chair Maggie Stanley. “This is huge, and I do foresee future workshops, so there will be a lot of time (for the public) to comment and formulate thoughts.”

The plan calls for 804 new residential units, including 603 market rate units and 201 affordable units to be built over five phases.

In addition to retaining approximately 175,000 square feet of existing commercial space, another 28,500 square feet of street-level commercial and retail space would be added and the first floor of the parking garage at 315 Cumberland Ave. would be converted to commercial or retail space.


It’s all contained within 13 parcels on seven city blocks that span from Kennebec Street to Cumberland Avenue, and from Preble Street to Chestnut Street.

Board members Tuesday raised a variety of questions and concerns on everything from building design to green space and inclusionary zoning requirements, but also expressed some support for the project. “This is really going to be transformative for this area of the city… It’s in essence a neighborhood plan,” said board Vice Chair Brandon Mazer.

The city’s inclusionary zoning requirements stipulate that at least 25% of units in new developments of 10 units or more be dedicated as “workforce housing,” affordable for households earning 80% or less of the area’s median income.

The project calls for 201 workforce units – 25% of the 804 – available for those earning 60% of the area median income. Those units would all be contained in one building at 89 Elm St., while the market rate units would be spread out in six other buildings.

Plans for a major development in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood would transform 13 parcels on seven city blocks with over 800 housing units and retail and commercial space.Rendering courtesy Stantect

“I do have serious concerns about the affordable housing building site,” said board member Justin Barker. “I feel like just one massive affordable housing project is far from an ideal situation. We do have a lot of those around the city, and they are a bit difficult to manage and bring some bad stigmas with them often.

“If there’s a way to break it into multiple buildings, even if it’s on the same site, I think that would go a long ways to make it feel like a neighborhood area.”


Barker said that planning to meet the 25% affordable housing requirement in one separate building could also set a bad precedent for future projects. “I think there’s just a lot to discuss about that as we move forward,” he said.

Board member David Silk said he also wants to see more details on the design of the project. “I think that would be helpful to have and kind of ties into the massing of the one building, versus breaking it up as some people suggested,” Silk said. “It would also tie into, what can you do if anything, for some green space?”

John Laliberte, Port Property’s head of acquisition and development for southern Maine and a co-developer on the project, said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting that the workforce housing is being proposed in one building because the developers were able to get MaineHousing financing, grants and low income tax credits for such a project, and they wanted to be able to utilize the funding.

“We understand the concern and we’re open to hearing feedback,” Laliberte said. “We look forward to working through all the comments staff, the board and the neighborhood have provided.”

About a dozen people commented Tuesday night, adding to two dozen written comments submitted prior to the meeting.

Jim Hall, who lives on Cedar Street, said neighbors aren’t looking to destroy the proposal and he wants to see it succeed, but that means the plans must be carefully thought out.


Hall said residents have raised concerns about traffic impacts, parking, green space, the segregation of the affordable housing, whether there are enough amenities in the neighborhood to meet the needs of 800 new families, and other issues.

“I want this proposal to succeed in a big way, and I believe that means being careful in this stage and doing it right,” Hall said.

Heidi Souerwine, who lives on Mechanic Street, said she too is excited for the project, but shares concerns. “This is a really significant development for Portland, and possibly the biggest one all of us will see in our lifetimes,” Souerwine said. “I feel like there’s huge opportunity, but also huge responsibility.”

Souerwine said she is worried about the affordable housing being concentrated in one building and encouraged the board to look at ensuring adequate green space.

“Increasing green space and protection for the singular green space that also supports underserved populations in this community, to me are crucial to this being a workable plan and also a future, livable whole neighborhood,” Souerwine said.

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