A combined renovation and construction project at 55-59 St. Lawrence Street on Munjoy Hill came closer to a reality today at a workshop before the city’s planning board. The applicant is Greg Shinberg, of St. Lawrence Development, LLC.
The over 100 year old building will be completely renovated Shinberg told the planning board and the front doors will be kept. The project will remain rental. He asked aloud “is this in character with the neighborhood and does it enhance the value of adjoining properties?” There are currently seven units. An addition will be connected to the existing building bringing that total number of rental units to 16. The addition will wrap around the rear of the building, eliminating a cherished back yard. Also proposed is a a 3-story townhouse (in blue in above photo) with its own parking space.
Architect Mark Mueller located photographs from 1924 of the building that showed balconies and porches from the original building that will be duplicated on the renovated building. The proposal calls for 16 parking spaces 13 of which would be compact and under the building.
About a dozen neighbors attended the workshop and many of them spoke on different issues. Several spoke about the “scale and massing” of the proposal including architect Rob Whitten who owns one of the largest single-family homes on St. Lawrence Street. Some parking issues remain to be resolved. Also unresolved is the issue of street trees and the city arborist has said this matter should be resolved before it goes to a public hearing.
Ted Arnold, a neighbor, said: “Developers are not bad people. They want to make money, but the city needs to protect renters.” Amen!
Planning board members generally liked the overall proposed project. Board member David Eaton said “Good to see a heartfelt effort to see the developer try to make it compatible” with the neighborhood. Is there enough variety on the street to justify the variety in this project? Yes,” he said.
Architect Julie Larry of Portland Landmarks said: “…..The U-shape plan was a popular apartment house plan that was used in other neighborhoods in Portland.” She expressed concern for the parking issues and hoped it would be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.
Vice chairman Mazur said: “We look for comments from the public to be respectful and will cut off any one who is not.” His comment came at the end of the workshop in response to a public comment that was not respectful toward city staff and the board.