By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,562)
In an arduous and overly long workshop. the planning board unanimously approved the final site plan and subdivision review for an 8 – unit affordable condo development at 65 Munjoy Street. The approval included a condition that tweaks on a bay window be made with city staff rather than coming back again to the planning board for approval. Construction of the building, by Wright-Ryan, is expected to begin this spring said Peter Bass, a partner with Ethan Boxer-Macomber, d/b/a Adams Apple LLC.
The City issued an RFP back in 2014 for a portion of the former Marada Adams Elementary School redevelopment to which Adams Apple LLC responded. Arrangements for the remediation required on the property to make it suitable for housing has taken far longer than anyone could have anticipated. There have been numerous stops and starts in this development – adding to the costs incurred by Adams Apple, LLC.
The proposal submitted to the planning board tonight showed major improvements over the proposal planning board members received prior to the meeting. The new proposal showed a brown building, rather than blue, bay windows on the top right of the building and a more welcoming entrance to its front at 65 Munjoy Street. Some of these changes were intended to alleviate the massing concerns of neighbors in the area. Caitlin Cameron, Urban Planner for the City said that the proposal met the requirements of the R6 design requirements. The proposed building that is one story higher than its neighbors is not unusual because it is not in a historical district Cameron added.
Pushing the envelope were Carol Morrisette and Jack Soley, planning board members who held out for more definition of the windows – causing some to wonder where is the line to be drawn between the board’s role as architect and approval of the site plan – not a unique question for the board to consider. Soley took several opportunities to inform the development team that because this is a partnership with the city, the project is under more public scrutiny than normally. “When I look at this, I see a reliefless facade that is blank,” said Soley of a slide of the front of the building. A frustrated Bass repeatedly asked the board to be specific, but it was not able to be. After too much of this from Morrisette and Soley, Macomber responded: “You can’t see all of the articulation on the building from this point. We don’t want to see cheap, flat construction. We want good character. Not a judicial hearing from the planning board.”
Kristien Nichols, an East End resident, said following the meeting: “I support this. It’s a positive move for the community. I think the planning board was a little too critical of the project.”
A less controversial presentation before the planning board was that of 31 Fore Street. The developer Bob LeBlanc, d/b/a Peninsula Properties, has filed a subdivision and site plan application for a new 4-unit condo that would displace tenants currently living there. Unfortunately, Portland has no protections or safety net in place that requires developers to assist qualifying displaced tenants. There are no relocation funds available to these tenants and tenants at will continue to receive only one month to find a new apartment to move to with a zero vacancy rate in Portland.
Planning board members asked that the entrance to the proposed building on Fore Street be more elaborate than plans currently propose. Also, the entrance on Waterville Street, next to the garage should be more elaborate as well. The exterior of the building will not use Shaker Shingles, as shown in photographs, because they don’t hold up well when located next to salt water said Andy Hyland, of nearby Port City Architecture. A composite is being considered, and Hyland wants to keep the same color scheme – a brownish scheme. A rain garden is proposed at the corner of Fore and Waterville Streets to assist in the collection of storm water. A long-standing tree at the Fore Street entrance will most likely be removed. (See above left photo.)
According to a memo to the planning board from Caitlin Cameron, urban designer, for the City: “The composition of the Fore Street facade is generally well balanced and provides much visual interest.” The application is expected to go before the planning board in March for a public hearing and final vote.
For more background information on both of these proposals, please visit post # 2,560 dated February 8, 2016 herein.