By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,278)
“I did not say that! He misquoted me,” said Jonathan Cox, Chairman, The Federated Companies, of an article in todays local section of the “Portland Press Herald,” written by Dennis Hoey. The article said that Cox was giving notice to the city’s planning board that unless he received approval for this newest reiteration of the project in Bayside by January 27th, that Cox was withdrawing his application for the project. “I never said that. I don’t want to talk to reporters anymore,” he repeated several times, during a break between the afternoon and evening workshops at a planning board meeting devoted to the Midtown proposal. Mhn.com did not stay for the second session that started at 7:30 pm.
The date for the public hearing before the planning board has not yet been decided, although it may still be on Tuesday, January 27th as the applicant had previously requested. Cox would like to begin construction this spring. If he does, it will be the culmination of five (5) years of negotiations with the City of Portland on this project.
In what was a much more congenial atmosphere than the December workshop when the planning board and Midtown representatives last met, David Hancock, of CBT Architects, the Boston-based architect for Midtown, described changes to the proposal for a major residential and retail development in Bayside. Hancock told the planning board late this afternoon that the exterior of building # 3, over 400 ft. in uninterpreted length and the building eliciting the most planing board criticism, will be constructed of corrugated metal and less than 50% of the building from EIFS. EIFS is a building material that the planning board objected to in its last meeting because of its questions regarding its longevity in this climate. The planning board was also critical of the building material because of its lack of “character.”
This afternoon Cox tried to assure the planning board that since the inception of this product, it has evolved greatly – to where it is today – a preferred product because it is a “superior” material. Cox, dressed casually, said that EIFS was not being proposed for financial reasons as has been previously suggested. At the last meeting, some of the planning board members were short on patience and long on criticism. The harshest criticism came from planning board member Jack Soley – a mood that seemed to have lifted today. Night and day in other words. Speculation is that there were many more attending these two sessions today whereas no one except yours truly attended the December 9th meeting.
A second issue of concern to the planning board is the length of building # 3. It is 430 ft. long and planners believe it would benefit from a mid-block split through it. Hancock said no corridor was planned at this time. The only split would come during business hours when shops on the retail first floor of the building would have access to Portland Trails from both sides of the building. Portland Trails Executive Director said this Kara Woodlick, said this was not acceptable from her perspective.
Planning board member Jack Soley expressed concern that the board was being asked to consider far too much material in time for the requested public hearing on January 27, 2015.
About six people testified in favor of the Cox proposal. Sean Kerwin, a supporter of the project from the beginning and a Bayside resident said: “I’d like to see the developer fight the lawsuit. It’s extremely frustrated that a few people who do not represent the neighborhood, its residents or its businesses are using a lawsuit to derail a great project after it has successfully passed all democratic and administrative processes. I think our future as a neighborhood and city is bleaker today because of KeepPortlandLivable.”