This parking lot at the corner of Elm and Lancaster streets in Portland is where Port Properties is proposing to site a 201-unit affordable rate apartment building, part of a seven-building, 10-year development plan. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A development that would add 804 apartments to Portland’s Bayside neighborhood – including 201 affordable units – received an initial endorsement from the city’s planning board on Tuesday, but the unanimous approval of the project’s master plan came with some concerns.

The proposal by developers Port Property calls for seven new buildings along Lancaster and Elm streets. In addition to the apartments, the development would include 29,000 square feet of commercial space and two open spaces: a pedestrian-friendly “living street,” or woonerf, and a 6,000-square-foot public green. 

Board Chair Brandon Mazer said that Tuesday’s vote OK’d the general concept of the project, but each phase also will require subsequent site plan approvals, which will focus on the details – and questions residents have. 

Port Property’s site plan for proposed mixed-use development in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood. Courtesy Port Property

“This is a large area, it’s an ambitious project,” Mazer said. “We are getting the general idea of what’s coming in this area, which will make, hopefully, long-term for a better project.” 

The development is expected to take place over five phases during a 10-year period, transforming an area that already has seen sweeping changes. Bayside is a roughly 100-acre neighborhood that has traditionally been a social services hub and home to the city’s Oxford Street Shelter, which closed in March.

Residents have asked about the project’s landscaping, building size and traffic impact, and encouraged the developers to establish some sort of neighborhood advisory panel, which board members also supported.


“We can’t require you to meet with the community,” said Sean Murphy, a board member, but “it is in everybody’s best interest to have the community nodding their heads the next time we meet with you all.” 

Mazer agreed and said that projects with robust public engagement tend to get through the site plan review process more easily. 

“The more you get, the better it will be,” he said.


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

Currently, the proposal puts the 201 required workforce housing units in one large U-shaped building, rather than sprinkled throughout the other buildings with the 600 or so market-rate apartments.


The decision to lump all the workforce units together has raised a few eyebrows.

“It is segregation,” Amelia Labreck, a Cedar Street resident, told the board. “Not only is it unfair and unethical, it is dangerous and discriminatory in this application,” she said.

While a first for Portland, having all the workforce units in one offsite building is permitted.

Board member Maggie Stanley said she believes 89 Elm St. should either be two buildings or at least feel like two buildings, and will be “pushing that building hard with everything I can” during the site plan review process to make it happen.

“I don’t believe that the design is right right now,” she said. “But the overall scheme and the master plan and the creation of this neighborhood I think has many, many great qualities and is going to really do a lot for this community and this neighborhood.”

Mazer agreed that generally, the project will be good for the city. 

“We are going to get some decent housing out of it,” he said. “I do think seeing the affordable housing first is going to be a stretch, but it is affordable housing first, so with the cons come some pros.”  

With the master plan approval, Port Property can now submit a site plan for Phase 1, which includes 111 market-rate apartments at 196 Lancaster St., the 201 affordable units at 89 Elm St. and the ground-floor project at the Cumberland Avenue parking garage.

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