By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,380)
PLUM, an upscale womens’ consignment boutique, was removed from a proposed Historic District’s designation at the Historic Preservation Board meeting earlier this week. The action was taken on August 5th in response to that request by Kelly Williams who owns the PLUM boutique at 316A Congress Street (at the corner of Franklin Street) In her email dated July 24th, Williams said: “We feel that it will limit the future plans we have for the property.” Williams and her husband Walter own 316 and 316A Congress Street – property that some day (ten years away maybe?) will be impacted by the proposed redesign of the Franklin Street corridor. It was decided “to leave as is” the two properties owned by the couple who also live on Munjoy Hill.
During the past months, the HP Board has been reviewing possible new zoning for the India Street corridor as well as a historical designation for the neighborhood on the east end of Portland. This is said to be Portland’s first neighborhood – home to many immigrants and the center of commerce in the city before expanding to the west. Prior to the recent depression, the India Street corridor was expected to grow dramatically – but it did not. Now it’s on the way to playing catch-up with its potential growth. Hence the drive to rezone it and protect historic buildings key to its development.
The HP board was asked to reduce its footprint by the planning department recently. Frustration by nearby residential building owners and renters the HP Board decided to reduce the district boundary – eliminating residences and focusing on “key structures that largely define the historic core of the neighborhood,” according to a memorandum from Deb Andrews, to the HP Board. Those key structures include churches that were so important in the lives of Italian immigrants to the India Street corridor. Some property owners proposed for inclusion in the Historic District designation, feared an extra layer of regulation by the city, delays when time means lost revenue opportunities, in addition to the increased costs often needed to satisfy designation requirements.
In a July 17th email to Deb Andrews, Program Director, Chris Korzen, who rents an apartment on Hampshire Street, informed her that the notification process to property owners in the area is inadequate as it now exists. Much more detailed information on the large scope of the change and its implication for property owners needs to be emphasized Korzen said. Property owners impacted need to be advised of their right to petition the board for “removal from a proposed historic district,” Korzen wrote in the same email.
On September 2nd, there will be a public hearing and vote on the proposed historic district. If you have an interest in the matter, let the Board know on that date. That recommendation will be forwarded to the city’s planning board on September 15th.