Parking Continues as Sticky Issue at St. Lawrence Arts Center Meeting

The Addition on Right Superimposed onto the Original Building on Left

The Addition on Right Superimposed onto the Original Building on Left

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,723)

Parking in its various incarnations was the sticky issue at tonight’s meeting on the proposed performance addition to the St. Lawrence Arts Center hosted by the city’s planning office director, Jeff Levine.  The meeting was held at the East End Community School on the Hill.  Only about 50 people  attended, despite concerted efforts of the opponents (Concerned Citizens) to rally their troops to attend the meeting. The low turnout could have been in part due to the cold weather Portland is experiencing or that people just aren’t as concerned as the Concerned Citizens claim they are.

Tom Gorrill, a transportation consultant for the St. Lawrence, presented a plan that said there was ample street parking for the theater with the implementation of a shuttle service running between the Arts Center and Cutter Street. About 7 naysayers doubted the validity of the study.  They included Hill residents travel agent Vanna Carmona, a founding member of the Concerned Citizens and real estate agent Rita Yarnold.   Formerly, the group had focused on the “massive” size of the building.  Since it has been pointed out that the imprint of this proposed building is smaller than the building it replaces, the group has backed off that losing criticism. The original building that this proposed addition replaces was a 500 seat sanctuary; this proposal calls for a 401 seat performing center. . Others vented on a wide range of subjects including the business plan of the non-profit, the slow response of the city on snow removal in the area, the need for a residential parking program. Hill resident Crandall Toohacker  floated the possible construction of a parking garage with housing on top of it on the Hill at this meeting as well as elsewhere.

Rob Levin who lives on Beckett Street spoke in favor the addition saying:  “People are driving less, car pools are working.  His wife, Sarah Cushman, worked on the parking study and it was done with “integrity” Levin said.  Lisa Morris said:  “I’m excited by this project.  The height is appropriate and the parking is not a problem.  Hill resident Crandall Toothacker said:  “I love this project.  It will add a lot to the Hill.”  Alan Kuniholm, president of the Portland Society of Architects said that “the St. Lawrence is a real asset.  The massing is great and it will show real ownership.  I’m totally in support of this project.”  Jon Radtke added that “parking is not an issue.  We always find our way around it.  I remember when some were panicked about parking when the Island View apartments were built.  It has never been a problem.”

There will be a planning board workshop on March 18, 5:00 pm at city hall to which  the public is invited to attend.