The Press Herald is reporting on a major new development proposal for Thompson's Point, a small peninsula on the Fore River that's adjacent to Portland's train station and Concord Coach bus terminal. The concept calls for a major events arena that would host the city's D-league basketball team, a large music venue, and a convention center, in addition to two mid-rise office buildings on the end of the peninsula, a large parking garage, and a hotel.
All this would be located within easy walking distance of the Portland Transportation Center, which offers hourly buses to downtown Boston and Logan Airport, in addition to five daily round trips to Boston's North Station via the Amtrak Downeaster. The convention and hotel elements of this development proposal are obviously trying to capitalize on the site's easy connections to the larger city to our south. This is a major transit-oriented development proposal.
The developers also claim that they have investors lined up and that the project would be privately financed - which is impressive, given how many convention centers and sports arena proposals ask for government handouts in other cities. And it looks like a nice waterfront esplanade would also be included around the edge of the site - hopefully this will be a truly public space, and not a private garden with "no trespassing" signs.
My one regret is that the developers aren't planning to rehab the old brick warehouse building on the site - that building in its own right could have been a really awesome music venue, and added some historic authenticity to a development that runs the risk of feeling like a sterile office park. I'll hold out some hope that the developers and architects think of a creative way to save it, but even if they can't, the overall merits of building so much right next to a major transit hub outweigh that quibble, in my mind.
This project's announcement also comes close on the heels of another convention center proposal from the Shipyard Brewery's owner. The fact that two developers independently are proposing convention centers for Portland speaks to the city's potential to attract more business travellers and events. The Shipyard proposal wouldn't have the direct connection to an intercity transit terminal, but its location within walking distance of downtown's businesses and restaurants, might mean that it could have a stronger positive impact on the local economy.
But that proposal may well be moot: the Thompson Point concept looks more polished, and if they're telling the truth about their financing, it looks like this one's more likely to get built.
Which means that, if Portland wants other downtown businesses to be able to capitalize on its promising convention business, it needs to start planning more robust and reliable bus transit connections between Thompson's Point and the rest of the city.
I'll wait to see more details before I make an outright endorsement, but this looks like a very promising concept, as well as a strong vote of confidence in transit-oriented development sites.