Late last night the city’s planning board approved the transformation of the 1.75 acres of the former Jordan’s Meat property into a new Hampton Inn. The whole project has been on a fast track for approval by the city because the developer Opechee Construction Corp. (N.H.) wants to be open by the end of May 2011 – that to accommodate the expiration of a lease by its restaurant tenant.
Parking in the area has long been an issue in the proposed plan. The new Inn proposed to have 90 surface parking and valet spaces for its 122 room hotel and no parking for the diners who’ll utilize the Inn’s restaurant, Sebago Brewing Co. At a meeting at the Public Market recently, Middle Street business owners expressed concern for the lack of parking that already exists there. A letter from the Portland Regency at 20 Milk Street dated April 12, pointed out an inequity in the system. In 1984 when the full-service hotel was built in the Old Port, the city required it to have 120 parking spaces for the 95 room hotel; in perpetuity. Dramatic testimony from Richard Haines against the developers’ proposed parking policy, turned the tide. Eventually planning board members stipulated that the delevoper for the new Hampton Inn must contract for additional spaces at a nearby parking garage.
The same letter addressed other inequities: “….the City is yet again offering advantageous treatment to companies moving here from away to the detriment of its natives….We were born and raised here in Maine, we have been working in Portland since 1970, ….. We are not looking for special treatment or asking the City to prevent new competitors from entering the market – we only ask that the same rules be applied to everyone, and that the City will not give preferential treatment to those from away…….”
Hill resident and co-chair, Markos Miller, of the Franklin Street Study Group said he was pleased with the plan overall, but emphasized that there was plenty of room for parking and sidewalks along Franklin Street which borders the new Inn. He advocated for some exploration of that possibility. Miller drew the one laugh of the evening when he asked developer Mark Woglom, president of the development group if he could salvage the Jordan’s Meat sign from the demoliltion process which has already begun. Woglom said laughing: “I can promise you we can do that!” It remains to be seen where the sign will repose in perpetuity.
Several labor union members lobbied the planning board for contracts with good benefits. Planning board member Joe Lewis said he was glad to see them at the meeting, but the planning board was not the right place to lobby for their issues because the planning board has no authority in the matter.