By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,255)
What would you rather have? An undertilized piece of waterfront property surrounded by chained link fences and infested with vermin? Or would you prefer a dynamic and iconic image of Portland ‘s waterfront – picture perfect for any tourist brochure anywhere?
Obviously, pIcking the latter image, a study was released this morning that illustrates the economic benefits to Portland of the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street, the former Portland Company complex, The vision of the developer, CPB2 Management, LLC., has been under the city’s microscope recently. And the concept has a vital hurdle to get over on Monday evening, April 6th. That’s when the City Council votes on whether or not to approve the developers’ application to rezone the almost 10 acres of land at the bottom of the HIll. The rezoning to B6 would give CPB2 permission to construct a mixed-use development – including 400 units of housing. Without the rezoning, the future of the redevelopment would be in jeopardy. The zone change and resulting redevelopment of the property would provide a huge economic benefit to Portland, and that’s what an economist set out to illustrate this morning.
The redevelopment could add $76 million to Portland’s tax base, create hundreds of jobs during its construction and after, and create housing for nearly 400 people according to Charles Lawton, of Planning Decisions, Inc. With no speciific plan from the developer in place, what could the value of this property be in the future was a question Lawton grappled with. A comparable piece of property in the Old Port was chosen – the roughly ten acres bordered by Milk Street and Commercial Street.
Largely unconsidered by some critics of the zone change because they’d lose their waterfront views, is the economic benefit a developed waterfront would have on the adjacent waterfront. The City has already invested heavily in power, water, roads and the landmark Ocean Gateway facility. A mixed-use development would compliment these taxpayer investments and bring more revenue producing opportunities to this part of Portland. “A project like this can help change the face of Portland,” said Lawton.
The property is also under the microscope (and under attack) from the city’s Historic Preservation Board. It has said publicly (as has the preservation community) in general, that it would like to see the entire property designated as a local historic site; A property that would be handcuffed and run by the HP Board. There has been significant push back from that total designation – an overbite problem that may be regretted now in retrospect by the preservation community. Portland needs growth opportunities not shackled by the preservation community.
Last night the HP Board saw a presentation from Resurgence Inc. a consultant hired by the City of Portland to assess the condition and viability of demolishing or restoring the historic buildings on the site. Al Hodson, the presenter for the comany, rated the condition of most of the buildings at the former Portland Company complex as “very poor” – meaning demolition a likely necessity. But he went on to rate the overall condition of the buildings – poor – a more favorable (a gift) rating for preservationists who want to maintain control over the site and who hired him. “It’s very subjective,” Hodson acknowledged, responding to a question about the discrepancy in ratings from Brady’s attorney, Mary Costigan, of BernsteinShur.
Also the Board indicated it had no interest in seeing a similar presentation by Becker Structural Engineers, a consultant hired by the developer CPB2. Copies of the report were provided to the Board, however.
C’est la guerre!