By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,605)
Home owners near the former Adams School know what good design is about. They know that the Adams Apple plan for 65
Munjoy Street is not good design. Furthermore, the immediate home owners were snubbed rather than given time to comment on the final proposal as is the policy encouraged by the City. From material obtained by mhn.com it appears that the effort to snub home owners was intentional by the developer, Adams Apple, LLC, whose office is at 30 Danforth Street. Unlike other cities, Portland has no “appeal” mechanism to consider such situations. .
With no other recourse available to them, the six home owners had no choice but to file a lawsuit against Adams Apple, LLC to fix this design-in-progress . In March 2016, they filed a lawsuit against the developer to give the matter a public airing that the planning board did not provide to them before it approved the final design. The complaint says that the “new large, single box design not satisfying the requirements of the 65 Munjoy Street RFP”, asks the Court to vacate the decision of the planning board or review the proposal once again providing a real forum for the public to testify about the proposal. “Iteration, iteration, iteration” is the long-standing enemy of the planning board. However, in this proposal that enemy was ignored for an unknown reason,
The Adams Apple LLC proposal was allowed to proceed unchallenged. In other words, a lack of articulation was ok’d – anathema to good design and the board’s normal standards. Sameness, sameness, sameness was approved by the city in this instance.
In a 11-page memorandum dated February 3, 2016, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit wrote to the city’s planning board. The memorandum said in part that on Thursday, September 24, 2015, Macomber emailed Matt Thayer, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that: “We intend to elevate the ground floor units, better articulate the facade and define exterior materials…Let’s stay in touch. I’d like to share our progress with you both and get your feedback once we get back on to the architect’s boards.”
According to the same memorandum from Thayer to the planning board, the next communication came from Macomber on January 15, 2016: “As of late fall, we have taken design to a significantly (sic) more refined level having now worked through all of the engineering (survey, geotech, environmental, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical), unit and common area layouts, and code review,” In other words, we’re now done with the design. No public review of the final proposal was allowed prior to the final meeting of the planning board at which the condo was approved.
“Considering that this project is supposed to blend in with the neighborhood, it is clear this design is a failure. It is not only aesthetics at stake; by building affordable housing that sticks out like a sore thumb, we are “othering” the folks who will buy these homes….It seems obvious after even a quick survey of the proposal images that a large rectangular block of a building does not match its neighboring homes,” wrote Abigail Lloyd to the city in February 4, 2016, (She is a home owner in the area). “,,,,I don’t want to live across the street from neighbors whose homes were constructed at cut-costs and without a sense of inclusivity. I want our new neighbors to move in and feel like they belong in this neighborhood,” she wrote.
Both Peter Bass and Ethan Macomber were emailed for comments on this piece yesterday. Macomber responded today: “We are in the final stages of trying to settle this matter with the plaintifffs amicably and out of court. One way or another, we will conclusively know the outcome of that effort by the end of this week,” wrote Macomber in an email to mhn.com today. . “Although I can’t discuss the matter before the end of Friday, you’ll potentially get an earful from Peter and me after that.” Macomber was formerly employed by Avesta Housing, the developer of the original Adams School property which has received high praise for its conformance to the surrounding neighborhood. Macomber left Avesta and started his own company, ANew Development.
Peter Bass and his wife Lin Lisberger both sit on Portland city boards and commissions. Lisberger is chair of the Portland Public Art Committee. Bass was also a member of the non-profit opposed to the redevelopment of the nearby 58 Fore Street. They live on Waterville Street on Munjoy Hill.