In a March 22 Press Herald opinion piece by a Portland Museum of Art board member, the museum continues its unwarranted pursuit of the destruction of 142 Free St. After years of effort by city staff, preservation specialists, the Historic Preservation Board, the Planning Board and, importantly, public input, the museum chooses to disrespectfully dismiss a city ordinance clarified by the city attorney.

The writer notes that 142 Free St. was once a wooden structure, now brick, which to him means no historic value. Fenway Park was once a wooden structure, now metal, so no historic value? The writer’s arguments pertaining to interior renovations and changes of use are irrelevant. The ordinance is concerned with the exterior only.

The writer says the addition will renew businesses, restaurants, etc., in Congress Square. Does this come from the bias of their own paid-for study? If the museum is so concerned about local restaurants, why compete with its own restaurant? A bigger economic generator for local restaurants is the Cross Insurance Arena, formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center, just down the street.

This will be a “world-class museum.” Says who? I could not find one new museum designed by the architect on their website, just an interior renovation and an installation. The public was never given the chance to consider one design that reused the sound, code compliant 142 Free St. structure. The PMA’s backroom decision, made without the public’s consideration on sustainable reuse, was nontransparent and noninclusive.

Robert Kahn

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