100 Fore Street Plans Reviewed by City Planning Board; Architecture Lacking


Jonathan Cohen Testifying Before the Falmouth Town Council Previously on his Intention to Redevelop the “Falmouth Center.”

Developer Jonathan Cohen and his team, met with Portland’s  planning board earlier this week to  consider his application for a site plan review of a mixed use building at 100 Fore Street on the east end of Portland.  The  building is downhill from Munjoy South, a low-income development. and the neighborhood of Munjoy Hill, a residential community.

A memorandum from planning staff says that Munjoy South is likely to be redeveloped because it is not “appropriate urban residential design.”  However, the memo does not say anything about when this could happen. or about the city’s plan for displaced tenants and their future, etc.   When tenants are displaced for development purposes, will low-income tenants receive adequate notice and relocation funds (from the developer, not the city)  that is common practice in other cities?  I know; this anti-tenant city is interested only in converting every shoe box into  high-end tax producing income.   Is Cohen slated to redevelop Munjoy South  too?

The almost 600 space parking garage proposed for this site by Cohen is supposed to be demolished with all but the portion which is currently occupied by Hamilton Marine. to be rebuilt. The HamiltonMarine end of the building is to remain standing. Rather, it will house a private fitness gym for the new WEX employees nearby. The new headquarters will be occupied early next year.  (HamiltonMarine will be moved out to Presumpscot Street in January of 2019).   Cohen said that the top two floors of the parking garage will be reserved for his tenants, (probably WEX employees) and the first floor for public parking. He has said in the past at a public meeting that he would consider giving a special deal to residents of Peaks Island who need parking on the “mainland.”  The city does not yet have a breakdown of how many parking spaces will be dedicated to the nearby WEX headquarters, although they have requested that information from Cohen.

The city’s urban designer, Caitlin Cameron,  said that the proposed garage, retail and office space building’s “orientation and massing are not as simple” as she’d like.  “The building lacks a single direction.  It lacks a priority of balance,” she said.  “I don’t know where the front door is.” There are three entrances to the garage; one is on the right of the property close to the current entrance and two on the other left side of the garage. The entrance on the right poses questions regarding angle and width,  etc.  The first floor will be dedicated to public parking and the second and third floor “reserved parking for tenants.”  Cohen also said the building will not be LED certified.  City manager Jennings agreed saying that “expense is a waste of money”.

The issue of underground utilities was discussed by Tuck O’Brion, of the city’s planning office.  The cost of this upgrade by CMP is so expensive that it prohibits individual developments from pursuing that option.  Rather, O’Brion said there are on-going  efforts to get the entire area in a position to utilize underground utilities as one unit and hopefully a more reasonable expense.

Retail space will be at each corner – in a book-end style –  rather than all along the first floor.  That’s because 100 Fore Street is not a “destination” yet. Planning board member David Eaton disagreed with that reasoning saying that the entire length of the building should be dedicated to retail space.  If not now, it’ll never happen he said.

Cohen told the planning board that the building can be repurposed in the future if that becomes necessary because of a lack of auto use.

During the public comment period, Julie Larry, of Greater Portland Landmarks, asked if there had been any discussion about moving building 12 from the adjacent Portland Foreside.  The answer from Tuck O’Brion was yes.  “Every day.”

note:  This blogger is still having difficulty downloading recent photographs from my camera to this post.