City Committee Identifies Space on Munjoy Hill for Possible Housing Development

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City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, Chair of the HCDC Committee

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, Chair of the HCDC Committee

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,722)

At tonight’s Housing and Community Development Committee meeting, Chair Kevin Donoghue asked city staff to continue  researching  lots in Portland that may be suitable for housing development in the near future.  Mary Davis, Division Director, was asked several months ago to compile a list of city owned land that could be developed in this way.  Her report included three sites in Portland; one of which was the city-owned  remaining land at the Adams School Condominiums.

The identified space at the  Adams Condos is the former school parking lot which measures approximately 6,771 sq. ft, Based on zoning, a maximum of six units could be built on this lot.  It could be designated as rental housing said Davis in her presentation to the Committee.  However, because this particular lot has never been environmentally assessed, Donoghue asked Davis to find grants or other sources of revenue that might pay for such an evaluation.  When Avesta Housing developed the adjoining property, high levels of toxins were discovered, (higher levels than expected) requiring expensive and time-consuming remediation. The assessment of this lot could reveal that expensive  remediation is necessary here as well as on the property that the Adams Condos are situated.  Donoghue said he was undecided as to whether or not this property should be rental or ownership.

Two other city-owned sites were identified in the report; they are 83 Middle Street and 98 High Street.  Both are currently parking lots; the former for the Portland Police Department and the latter for the community in which it is located.  Portland Police Chief MIchael Sauschuck said he hoped that if changes were made to the Department’s parking site, it would not be relocated far from headquarters.  The Committee agreed to  to reconsider these two  lots later this year, if at all. Additional research by Davis is needed to determine whether this is feasible

Councilor Donoghue rents in District 1, the District he represents on the City Council.  He’s concerned about the recent invasion of luxury condominiums targeted for wealthy retirees from away.   The March issue of DOWN EAST magazine features a story, “Munjoy Hill’s Moment”, in which Donoghue says:  “The lifelong resident of Munjoy Hill is an endangered species.  So if you’re renting in this neighborhood, you’re here temporarily.”  Although Munjoy Hill once held a reputation as an undesirable place to live because of drugs, that has changed.  Now it is considered the desirable place to live – even more desirable than the West End of Portland according to the same article.

“I would like to focus on this property,” said Jeff Levine, Director of the City’s Planning Department.  “There is lots of high-end development and I would like to have some lower end housing development on Munjoy Hill.”