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

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ocean Properties sneaks out of town

Walsh told the city that he was too occupied with projects in places like Bar Harbor to pursue the Maine State Pier project in Portland.
Tom Walsh (pictured) of Ocean Properties quietly stole out of town last week, leaving his lawyer to explain that, contrary to is insistence to the contrary last year, he actually doesn't have enough money to build a hotel and office building on the Maine State Pier.

What? Ocean Properties isn't following through on their promises? I know - it's crazy, right?

And so, the Maine State Pier project dies once again. Although, even though its lifeless corpse has been beaten so thoroughly that you could drink it with a straw, we shouldn't be too surprised if some politician tries to revive it one more time.

[2011 update: sure enough, mayoral "candidate" Ethan Strimling wants to resurrect the real estate bubble, and has made Maine State Pier whining a centerpiece of his campaign! AND he's also hired Bob Baldacci, the sleazy Ocean Properties developer with the fake tan, to fundraise for his campaign.]

Walsh's departure should be a serious embarrassment to half of the City Council, and especially those who tried to make political hay out of the Olympia Companies' failed bid to develop the pier a few months ago.

Councilors Dan Skolnik and Dory Waxman, in particular, have made connecting their political buddies at Ocean Properties into the city's Pier negotiations process their primary focus on the Council and in their campaigns - and now they have nothing to show for it.

Left: Councilor Dan Skolnik. Or is it ex-Councilor Jim Cloutier? Or Councilor Waxman? Maybe Councilor Mavodones, or Councilor Duson? They all look so much alike these days...

Two years of wasted time and debate on the Maine State Pier fiasco has done incredible damage to Portland's civic environment by introducing a level of corruption and political skulduggery unseen in decades: from out-of-town union goons flooding "public hearings" at City Hall, to Tony Armstrong's (a vindictive sleazebag from Cape Elizabeth) illegitimate hatchet job against Ed Suslovic.

But the damage to Portland's economic development and urban environment has also been substantial. The economics for putting a big hotel and office building on an unstable pier in the ocean were always questionable; any politician who honestly believed the developers' promises, especially in this economic climate, is probably too ignorant of financial issues to lead our city.

Meanwhile, the whole two-year fiasco distracted our city, its developers, and our planning resources from neighborhoods where this kind of development is more economical and realistic: places like the Eastern Waterfront (which is still mostly empty) and Bayside.

When Jim Cloutier, Dory Waxman, Jill Duson, and others offered preferential treatment to Ocean Properties to develop a huge hotel and office complex on city property, that sent a clear message to other private-sector developers that it would be difficult for them to compete, and that they should hold off on building their own projects on private land.

But now that the MSP chimera is (hopefully) gone, maybe Portland can finally focus on real development projects - projects that can provide unvarnished benefits to our workers and our economy, instead of producing nothing but political bile.

More on the Maine State Pier business here.

And read more about Ocean Properties' credibility issues in this article from the Palm Beach Post.

Finally, one more link to improve Tony Armstrong's Google results: as this Bollard article makes clear, real estate broker Tony Armstrong is a lying, vindictive sleazebag from Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. I'm surprised, though, that there's so little recognition of the importance of a true working waterfront in Portland. Before the auto age, the harbor was all about moving goods, not entertaining people (except sailors), and I see no reason to think the post-auto future is going to be any different. The harbor is one of Portland's greatest assets, and it'd be a shame (and a source of lasting regret) to squander any more of it on amenities for the rich.