“We are trying to create a new image and move into a new exciting direction,” architect David Lloyd, told the planning board early this evening about the proposed 30-unit condominium proposed for 56 Hampshire Street on the east end of Portland. Moments later the developer NewHeightGroup LLC decided to advance to a public hearing before the planning board as its next step. The facade, constructed of grey brick and copper with no red brick to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, is a test to see how much of a “new direction” the planning board and the public will tolerate in this traditional and low-income neighborhood. This proposal represents a conspicuous departure from what already exists in the neighborhood – perhaps influenced by California architecture?
The proposed condominium features three (3) tier mechanical parking, roof deck, an exercise room, a green roof and a guest unit for rent by the residents. However, it also features a number of brick bays protruding onto city walkways. In the past the city has frowned upon these because of the impact the dripping water and icecycles can have on pedestrians below. “This is a complicated building. It’s a crazy space,” said Lloyd. In fact, no two units are the same in this building.” That may be partially because of the asymmetry of the building – in contrast to the symmetry of other residences in the area.
Three workforce units are required with this proposal They will all be off-site. One has been retained on nearby Hampshire Street and the location of the other two have yet to be determined. The development site is composed of the former Portland Food-Coop site, a former city property on Franklin Street and a portion of the rear lot of the neighboring residential property.
The NewHeightGroup is composed of: Susan Morris, Chip Newell, Erin Cooperrider, (manager member of the Group) and Tom Federle. Federle was the real estate attorney for S. David Sussman, former owner of the property. Morris and Newell relocated from Washington, D.C. Maine a few years ago. Morris and Newell developed the nearby Luminato and 118 Munjoy on the Hill.
During the public comment period several business owners and residents in the area asked that the construction workers be mindful about keeping the area picked-up including cigarette butts and other trash. Because they sometimes leave trash behind them leaving a mess, that Hampshire Street be one-way all the way and that the intersection needs another stop sign. Another objection was that grey brick can end up looking like “concrete.”
“I am very disappointed in this design,” said planning board watchdog George Rowe. “You like this when you wrongly attacked 24 St. Lawrence Street. Nothing that says this is Portland is in this building. It’s interesting how you beat up on 24 St. Lawrence Street and this developer gets a pass.”
Could there be two standards at work here?