Planning Board Rules on Several Proposed Projects; Including Hill Project

Tom Manning, Owner of Miss Portland Diner, Testified in Favor of the Midtown Proposal

Tom Manning, Owner of Miss Portland Diner, Testified in Favor of the Midtown Proposal

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,603)

Following almost three hours of mostly discussion and little public testimony, the city’s planning board and The Federated Companies agreed that the Midtown development is ready to go to a public hearing and vote before the Board on December 10th, with a caveat. Todays workshop was the sixth that the development team for the project has participated in.

The proposed Midtown is located on the former Bayside Rail Yard is in the vicinity of Somerset Chestnut and Elm Streets in the Bayside area of Portland.  The project covers 3.45 acres and includes 650 to 775 housing units, 100,000 sq ft. of retail space and two parking garages with 1100 spaces.  The project is divided into three phases.  Developers hope to begin construction of Phase 1 within the next year.

The Planning Board members expressed their satisfaction with the articulation of the buildings and their exteriors particularly since the addition of a new architect, Boston-based David Hancock, of CBT Architects.  Although city staff is satisfied with preliminary  results of wind and shadow test results, it acknowledged their could be some tunneling effects that could be “seasonal” and “episodic” in nature.  The applicant proposes a “one year post occupancy wind monitoring analysis” with remedies to follow if warranted. However, the Board requested that the developers provide specific steps on how the they would address such  issues in advance at the upcoming public hearing on December 10th.

Tom Manning, Munjoy Hill resident, and owner of Miss Portland Diner on Marginal Way, said this development would be a “huge benefit to the city.  Tall buildings have always been in the plans for Bayside, ” he said – a sentiment echoed by Tom Blackburn.  Peter Munro, an opponent of the project, requested an additional workshop in order to receive more information.

On another matter, the Planning Board granted a text amendment change from the developers of “118 Condominiums”, Congress Street on Munjoy Hill to increase the height of the building by 5 ft. as long as at least 75 % of the ground floor is dedicated to retail space. That would reduce the number of parking spaces on the ground floor from 22 to 18 said Tom Federle, Esq., representing the developers, Chip Newell and Susan Morris, at the workshop.

Hill resident Kathleen Bender told the Board she was concerned about the “mass” for the neighborhood and that this height would obscure her view of the distant waterfront.  Former planning board member, Hill resident with a law office across from the proposed condominiums, Barbara Vestal, emailed a letter to the Board saying she was not opposed to the development, but would prefer that the entire first floor street frontage must be “commercial or retail, except only for a small lobby/entry way serving the upper floor residential.”

On October 30, developers met with neighbors to discuss the proposed text amendment. Unfortunately, no renderings of the project are yet available. Some of those present made a case for more retail space on the Hill and fewer indoor parking spaces.  The meeting was facilitated by developers Chip Newell and Susan Morris.  David Lloyd is the architect.

The Board’s approval of the developers request for a text amendment change followed its healthy discussion on the board’s need to stop creating “these little zones.  It’s not an appropriate way to make changes.  There is a more comprehensive way to do this,” said Stuart O’Brien.  Other board members agreed.