The Historic Preservation Board voted Wednesday, June 24th in favor of its nomination that 58 Fore Street be designated as a Local Historic District. The vote, which was anticipated, followed four workshops and two site visits prior to this public hearing at which testimony was taken. This recommendation will be forwarded on to the city’s planning board for its consideration and then to the City Council who has the final say in the matter.
Such a designation if approved by the City Council which seems unlikely, would impede the already too prolonged and burdensome development process of 58 Fore Street by adding another layer of regulation enforced by the HP Board, more expense and difficult to adhere to HP requirements and less flexibility for creativity by CPB2, LLC. Brady has been acclaimed for his historic restoration of the former Portland Press Herald office building into the Press Hotel, Exchange Street on the edge of the Old Port of Portland. In contrast, Greater Portland Landmarks, Inc., executive director, Hillary Bassett, wrote in its current publication The Observer: “District designation will protect the contributing historic resources within the boundaries, provide greater clarity to the developers for their planning and provide a mechanism to review changes, alterations and new construction that transcends ownership.” Hmmm! Overbite here? Even arrogance?!
By way of background, both the HP Board and CPB2 commissioned structural reports that are critical to properly evaluate the structural integrity of all the buildings on the property. It is a positive sign that both independent reports were in extremely close alignment, validating the collective findings and allowing the HP Board to make more informed decisions about a historic district on the property.
Back in 1974, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission determined that the Portland Complex was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. However, it was not until last year that two HP Board members, Ted Oldham and Jon Turk, nominated the historic site for a Local Historical District, a move that has prompted some critics to call this an attempted “land grab” of private property.
Testifying in support of the local historical designation by the HP Board was Munjoy Hill resident Nini McManamy. She urged the Board to keep an open mind regarding the deterioration of the buildings for a future developer. McManamy, is a Leader in Portland’s Anti Growth Movement, (“AGM”). She’s a leader in the Souls of Portland, a band of activists opposed to the development of 58 Fore Street for selfish and short-sighted reasons. McManamy was recently elected to the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization Board. Keri Lord, a resident of Parkside, , also expressed her concern about the height of the proposed development. Both were leaders in the nasty, anti-Maine Narrow Gauge Museum & Railroad food fight in the early 90s on the same property. Peter Monroe, of KeepPortlandLivable, attended the meeting but did not address the Board.
“We continue to follow the HP Board nomination process and we note that both structural reports,…………..closely align in their assessments of the structural condition of the buildings. These reports are an important guide in determining what realistically can be preserved at 58 Fore Street. In balancing the many objectives of the City’s Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, our vision has always been to preserve a historic core of the Portland Company so that it can be celebrated for generations to come,” Jim Brady, CPB2LLC wrote in a press release issued today.