Maine State Pier “Concept” Applauded by City Committee, But Peaks Residents Wanted Parking

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Proposed “The Market at Maine State PIer” Presented at Tonight’s Economic Development Committee Meeting.

Bill Needleman, City’s Waterfront Coordinator.

An Example of a Stall on the Proposed Maine State Pier Shown During a l/2 Hour Slide Presentation.

A 1924 Photo of the POT Building Two Years After it was Built in 1922.  It Has Become Known as the Whaling Wall Because of the Mural  Spray-Painted on it in June, 1993 by Robert Wyland.

“It moves us off the rock,” said Bill Needleman, waterfront coordinator, this evening following his joint presentation with Kathy Giles, facilities manager, to the Economics Development Committee.  The presentation was of a concept that could happen at the long underutilized Maine State Pier.

Just after 8:00 pm this evening, Needleman  received the blessings of the  Committee’s outgoing chair David Brennerman, to move to the next step in the development of this concept.

The next step is to develop models and come up with costs for this “concept” – one that has been in the works for three (3) years by Needleman, of the Economic Development office.  The “next step” will be presented to the Economic Development Committee sometime next year under a new chairperson.

Needleman said that the appeal for The Market needs to be more than just a tourist attraction – it needs to have year round support – especially from the residents of the islands of the Calendar Islands of  Casco Bay.  “Year round islanders are a huge component of what will make it work,” said Needleman.

However, residents of Peaks Island have a different view of what should be done with the POT building on the Pier.  “Many of us have thought the Whale Wall building could have been a mainland parking for island residents,” said Randy Schaeffer.  In fact, the Transportation Committee of the Peaks Island Council is concerned about the lack of mainland parking for Peaks residents.  Needleman said that the emphasis will be on short-term parking – such as is experienced by the nearby Harbor Fish Market, 9 Custom House Wharf, that he cited as an example.

Needleman also said that he hoped employees of the new and nearby WEX headquarters would support of the redevelopment of the Pier year round.

Councilor Nick Mavadones, operations manager for the adjacent Casco Bay Ferries, said he liked the concept and it warrants more study.  “Studying  vehicular traffic is paramount,” he said.  Parking did not come up.

Anticipating questions on  increased traffic issues in an already congested section of the east end of Portland, Needleman showed diagrams in a slide show of circulation patterns in front of Casco Bay Ferries as well as a potential turn-around at the juncture of Franklin  and Commercial Streets to slow traffic flow.  However, Councilor  Mavadones, said that despite Needleman’s emphasis on pedestrian traffic exemplified by a proposed 12 ft. walkway and a covered walkway for pedestrians, a destination spot such as this would have vehicular traffic issues to be considered.  Casco Bay Ferries is currently reevaluating its wait lines and redevelopment of the Maine State Pier would have to be done in conjunction with its interests.

“I sure hope that people will want to stop by to pick up a pound of fish,” said Needelman, a long-time city employee who formerly was part of the planning department before becoming waterfront coordinator.   It would be intended as a major market for the fishing industry – a concilliatory effort to placate  the fishing industry that has repeatedly expressed its concern over the intense development of the waterfront and that negative affect on the fishing industry. Late last month, three concerned ad hoc leaders of the fishing industry met with the city manager and Bill Needleman over their concerns – called “PAT.”  Those concerns are about parking, access to boats, and heavy traffic in the area.  The heavy congestion slows down moving a fragile product to market.

Needleman also called for a transparent process since there may be some who consider this redevelopment to be competition for their businesses.  Currently summer concerts are conducted on the Maine State Pier with fewer scheduled each year and no long-term leases under negotiation according to one city employee involved in the bargaining with the concert company.  Some neighbors on Munjoy Hill have complained to the city about the noise coming from those concerts.

Should funding be found to proceed with this concept to its fruition, it presumably would not cause the ugly controversy that happened in 2008 when the city tried to develop the Pier.  Some lined up behind Ocean Properties while others supported Olympia Cos.- the two contenders for the coveted work.  The chosen developer Ocean Properties finally withdrew from the project on August 8, 2008 citing other commitments.   Then on January 16, 2009, the city announced that Ready Seafood was moving into space on the Pier.  Since then, the Pier has been underutilized.

“Access to the water is not enhanced here.  How do we help people see the water?”  asked Mayor Ethan Strimling, not a member of the Committee, although he did sit in on the meeting.  No public comment was taken during the hour long presentation, although there was a presence of potential developers in attendance.

Please see post herein dated October 24, 2017 regarding concerns of the fishing industry and the congestion on Commercial Street due to all the development therein.