Planning Board Wants “Justification” for Height Increase from Americold

Jedd Steinglass, LSP, Project Manager, at Woodard & Curran

Jedd Steinglass, LSP, Project Manager, at Woodard & Curran

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,602)

The City of Portland and residents of the west end are at odds over the proposed height of a cold storage warehouse – that became evident last night at a planning board meeting where the two sides presented their cases to the board. The City wants to increase the building height to 70 ft. while residents, whose views will be blocked, and access to the waterfront prohibited for security purposes, are adamantly opposed.

Making the case for the city’s application to raise the height of Americold’s temperature controlled warehouse to 70 ft. was Bill Needelman, waterfront coordinator. He said that a cold storage facility is a permitted use in the West Commercial Street area. Although the city is aware of the impact of such a height increase on neighbors, it is necessary for the warehouse to be “financially viable.”  Needelman said that the warehouse is needed to enable EIMSKIP to reach its full potential as a cargo shipper to the North Atlantic. To not grant this height increase from the limit of 45 ft., would constrain growth of this waterfront business.

A cold storage warehouse was not included in the original proposal for the West Commercial facility, but was always part of the plans anyway. Possibly to have included this aspect of the entire project in the public documents would have stalled the EIMSKIP project indefinitely from the get go?

“I want more data on the justification from Americold for this increase in height,” said David Eaton, planning board member.  Other planning board members followed his lead requesting the same data before another workshop is held.  Repeated questions for more information on why Americold needs to go so high were asked of Needelman and Jedd Steinglass, LSP, project manager for Woodard & Curran. (Woodard & Curran is an engineering firm representing Americold in Portland.)  Neither seemed to have answers that satisfied the board members.

Steinglass, said that the proposed warehouse would store dry goods as well as be a cold storage facility and  provide office space for about 20 full-time EIMSKIP employees.   The offices are planned to be on the top floor of the building.  The construction of this building as proposed would prevent any public access according to Steinglass. The idea is that this warehouse would be the flagship building for EIMSKIP in the United States.

District 11 Councilor Spencer Thibadeau did not attend the planning board meeting.

During the public comment period, Sydney Thaxter said that the “height is the biggest concern of neighbors.  Extra height is a gift to them… will be a sore thumb in Portland.”  “Things keep shifting in the way they are described to the public,” said Pamela Shaw. Tim Winters of the Sprague Terminal said he supported most of the proposal, but not the western  edge because it would prohibit some of Sprague’s business.

Americold, based in Atlanta, Georgia, has 175 similar warehouses in this country and overseas – including China according to Mr. Google.  This proposed warehouse is taller than most of them, but smaller in footage according to Steinglass.

Part of the attraction for EIMSKIP to Portland is the deep water port and the chance to be a big player in a small city.