By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,180)
Late this afternoon the St. Lawrence Arts Center made its case before the city’s planning board at a workshop that it’s transportation demand management (“TDM”) plan meets the parking needs for the proposed 401-seat addition to the 76 Congress Street facility. The proposal is ready to move on to a public hearing at which time the planning board will make its final decision.
The centerpiece of the revised parking plan provides for an annual subsidy of $70,000 from the St. Lawrence to METRO to improve its Munjoy Hill service by extending its service until 11:00 pm Monday – Saturday and providing more frequent service to the area. In return, this would provide free rides for St. Lawrence patrons. A surcharge will be added to the price of a ticket for this option. Although not under the purview of the planning board, executive director Diedre Nice, said that several groups such as Portland Ballet and Portland Ovations, among others, have indicated interest in utilizing this space once it is built because they do not have permanent stages. Speaking in favor of the proposal, long-time Hill resident Jonathan Radtke recalled his experience with the Arts Center. “We’ve seen lots of changes up here on the Hill. Everyone said the sky would fall in. It hasn’t.. The St. Lawrence has been at the center of that change. We need to say yes and find a way to make this happen.” Nice said that following a fund-raising campaign, the auditorium is expected to be built in 2017.
Jonathan Culley’s (d/b/a Redfern Properties) proposed 53-apartment building at 89 Anderson Street in East Bayside is also headed for a public hearing and vote before the planning board at a date yet to be determined. Redfern is seeking a zoning change from it’s current residential R-6 to B-lb so it can develop a mixed use building with retail and take advantage of a high density provision that permits them to build the 53 units at market-rate rentals. (A one-bedroom unit is expected to rent for $1,300 on average and a studio for $1,000.) Neighbors opposed to the zone change on the grounds that the building is too massive for the area and the increased traffic will be dangerous at this busy this intersection. But, Tom Errico, the city’s traffic expert, said he does not consider this corner to be a “dangerous” intersection and problems that do exist there are not of Redfern’s making. Understanding the concerns of the neighbors, the board asked for more assurances from Errico that residents need not be fearful of the potential for an unsafe corner. Culley is the developer of Munjoy Heights and West End Place.
With a less certain future, is the proposal by developers Jed Rathband and the controversial Ron Gan to build 14 townhouses at 145-155 Washington Avenue. The property involves two parcels, one of which is Casale’s Auto Sales and Service. The two developers were seeking a zone change to B-2B from R-6, saying at an August meeting that the R-6 setbacks simply don’t work for their project. The B-2B zoning change was turned down because of the wide range of options that could be developed there should the two abandon the property for some reason. Rathband told the planning board that his concern is the “timing” and not the “zoning.” It was decided that a B1 zone change would be appropriate, but it would have to be advertised. Rathband & Gan have a deadline of October 15th, during which they can exercise their option to purchase the property from the owner. The advertisement would come after the October 15th deadline. Any extension of that deadline could be an expensive one, Rathband said; perhaps even causing a different outcome from what they planned. Planning board members were enthusiastic about the project and said repeatedly they’d like to see it built. For more background information, please read Post # 2,159, dated August 27th herein.
To obtain funding from a lending institution for the development, Rathband and Gan need to have presales for eight of the fourteen units. To date, two of the units have been “reserved” – which is not the same as “under contract.” Rathband is a real estate agent for KellerWilliams and Gan is the developer of the Federal Street Townhouses on the East End of Portland.
The devil is in the details.