A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Opportunity for the new Franklin Boulevard

Cumberland County is trying to strike a deal with the Boulos Company office brokers and developers to put what could become one of Portland's biggest office buildings next to Franklin Arterial and Lincoln Park. An early proposal is shown at right, and the project would occupy what is now a parking lot next to the existing courthouse (map below).

This is great news for the hundreds of Portlanders who would like to improve Franklin Arterial. While the developers haven't yet expressed any intention of implementing any of the public's desires for a better, more walkable streetscape, the existing public-private partnership between the County and the Boulos Company could - and should - be stretched to redesign and rebuild Franklin between Middle Street and Cumberland Avenue, and to restore the acre of Lincoln Park that was lost to urban "renewal" fifty years ago.

In order for this to happen, the city may have to make some concessions to the County and the developer. Reducing the site's parking requirements should be a no-brainer, since it will both make progress more economical and reduce the amount of traffic the site will generate.

But the City will also needs to raise the area's height restrictions substantially. This is the middle of downtown Portland, just a few blocks away from the city's tallest buildings, and if there's any neighborhood where tall buildings are appropriate, it's here. As far as height goes, my only caveat is that the building shouldn't cast a long shadow on Lincoln Park to the northwest: most of the building's height should therefore be concentrated on the southeastern end of the property, and a taller and skinnier tower will be preferable to a shorter, squatter building, like the one pictured.

Read more about the proposal in today's Press Herald. The public is invited to an informational meeting about this on Monday evening, 6:30 pm, in the existing courthouse building next door to the proposed development site. Let's get a big turnout there to advocate for a better building and some serious improvements to Franklin.

View Larger Map

No comments: