Preservationists Testify at City Board, Despite Temporary ‘Hands Off’ Deal

Some of the Cold Participans in The Site Walk at 58 Fore Street Today.

Some of the Cold Participants in The Site Walk at 58 Fore Street Today; Most of the Walkers Were From the Preservationists Community.

Architect Carol DeTine Asked that Observaory Views Not be Blocked.

Architect Carol DeTine Asked that Observaory  Views Not be Blocked. She is VP at Greater Portland Landmarks.

Development Team Members Kevin Costello and Casey Prentis With Planning Board Chair Stuart O'Brion During Site Walk Today.

Development Team Members Kevin Costello and Casey Prentis With Planning Board Chair Stuart O’Brion During Site Walk Today.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,233)

The planning board carefully scrutinized  building heights as proposed for the mixed-use development, 58 Fore Street, at its meeting late this afternoon at city hall.  The scrutiny did not come up short. It was necessitated by an application from CPB2 LLC which is requesting zoning changes for the  10 acres occupied by the historic Portland Company Complex. The applicant is seeking approval  to permit the development to advance to the next level of development.

The planning board meeting followed a site walk of the property to determine the building heights that might affect the contiguous Munjoy Hill neighborhood. During the cold walk along Fore Street, it was determined that none of the proposed building heights would exceed 37 ft., the height of the wires in place on that Street. That means that the highest building will always be 10 ft. less than the height limit for the adjoining Hill.

More than thirty (30) people bundled and braved the cold for this walk; dominated by the historic preservation community, some city staff and a handful of neighbors from the adjoining Munjoy Hill neighborhood. Most of the Hill neighbors seemed satisfied with what they learned at the site walk. A Waterville Street resident said he always asssumed that development of the property would be coming eventually and he was satisfied with what he saw. “I just wanted to make sure the developers are good guys.  They are,” he said. It has been a well-known fact for years that this 10 acres of valueable waterfront  property was for sale by its owner, Phineas Sprague, Jr.  The site walk was suggested by planning board chair Stuart O’Brion to help simplify a complicated subject.

Although Deb Andrews of the Historic Preservation office has agreed it will delay its request for a Local Historic District designation for the site until the zoning issues have been resolved, Carol DeTine, VP, of Greater Portland Landmarks, testified before the board at the workshop.  DeTine asked that the views of the historic Portland Observatory from the waterfront and from the Observatory over the Harbor be protected. Following the hearing, DeTine said that Greater Portland Landmarks supports the idea of a mixed-use development, but still advocates for a Local Historic District at 58 Fore Street.  “We think that a designation of a Local Historic District is less restrictive than designating buildings individually,” DeTine said following the meeting. The two groups have been collaboratively for their piece of the historic pie.

Dan Haley, a member of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade and a resident of the Eastern :Prom, asked the board for assurances that uses on the property not exclude commercial uses.  The Friends have long advocated relocating the commercial ramp at East End Beach parking lot to another site on the waterfront. To date the group has not been successful in locating a replacement for the East End Beach site.

According to one member of the development team this mixed-use development is to be a very public space, not unlike the Old Port.  Currently, there are five access points planned from the Hill into the development, although those plans have not been publicly revealed at this time.

The next planning meeting will focus on the marine aspect of the proposed development.