Neighbors Hear Details of 79 Walnut Street Condominium Development; Munjoy Heights


By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,534)

Residents of Munjoy Hill heard the details of a proposed upscale condominium development at 79 Walnut Street by the development team tonight at East End Community School.  The public meeting is a requirement of the city’s planning department for major developments in the city.

The 29-unit Munjoy Heights is to be located on l l/2 acres of land, the last remaining significant and undeveloped property on the Hill, according to developer Jonathan Culley, principal, of Redfern Properties. Joining Culley were the architect, Ryan Senatore,  and  landscaper for the townhouse condominiums which will be sold at market rates.

“This is not a gated community,” emphasized Culley during the overview of the project to almost 50 people attending the meeting.   “Although it’s a private area, we want it to be a part of Munjoy Hill.”  Running through this property is a popular walking trail, called Jack Path,  created by Portland Trails.  Although much of Jack Path will be eliminated by the condos, Culley has agreed to reserve a portion of it for public use through an easement to be worked out with Portland Trails on Friday.  A portion of the Path will be retained as is and replanted with non-invasive plants.

All of the 29 units will be three bedroom. The starting price for Munjoy Heights is $539,000.  No zoning change requests will be made to the City because the development falls within the R6 resident zoning. Culley has reached out to abutters on North Street, but said he would not divulge the nature of private agreements with some of them such as attorney Peter DeTroy. Construction is expected to begin in January of 2014 with 10 – 11 months construction time; Wright-Ryan is the builder. Culley said he’d be amenable to developing a communications list with interested parties to inform them on a weekly basis of the progress of the development.

Several Hill residents expressed concern about the lack of affordability of Munjoy Heights and wondered why he did not include some affordable units to this upscale development.  Culley said that is very difficult to do when it comes to procuring mortgages.  Hill resident Sam Cohen said:  “I lament the fact that the Jack Path won’t be he same.  I live pay check to pay check.  It’s gut check time.  A $500,000 – to $700,000 development is not what we need.”  Culley responded that he thinks Avesta does a good job of “providing affordable housing.  We are seeing wealthier people living next to those who are not,” he said referring to an upscale home he built on North Street for a wealthy attorney. Hill resident, Joie Grandbois, a full-time business student at USM, Portland, and a performance artist, expressed similar concerns about the gentrification occurring in the area.

The city’s planning board will consider the development at a workshop on Tuesday, October 22nd.  The meeting begins at 6:30 pm rather than at 7:00 pm. Munjoy Heights is the first matter on the board’s agenda. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, please contact Jean Fraser at of the city’s planning office.

Other matters on the agenda include: Nathan Clifford School and Seaport Lofts.