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

Friday, September 7, 2012

Projects in Planning

Next Tuesday's planning board hearing will discuss some interesting upcoming building projects:

  • Portland Yacht Services is proposing to build and relocate to a new boatyard on the western waterfront, under the Casco Bay Bridge. This could potentially represent one of the biggest private-sector investments in the working waterfront in many years. As Carol McCracken reported on Munjoy Hill News, the new yard might include a dry dock and berthing facilities plus large warehouses for indoor boat maintenance. The move would also open up the current Portland Yacht Services space (on the waterfront near the Eastern Prom) for redevelopment. 
  • In the Old Port, East Brown Cow Management is workshopping a 7-story, 124-room hotel to replace a surface parking lot on the corner of Fore and Union Streets,  catty-corner from the Portland Harbor Hotel. They're only providing massing sketches so far, but even these early plans make it clear that the developers care about providing an active street-level facade along Fore Street, and a dynamic, high-visibility corner that resembles folded glass.

    It's nice to see a progressive developer proposing high-value economic development without sandbagging it with low-value parking to ruin our streets for a change. A well-designed, attractive streetscape is in these developers' strong financial best interests, as they also own the adjoining retail spaces in the Canal Plaza garage, where tenants will benefit tremendously from more foot traffic along Fore Street.

    This development would fill in a big gap in the Old Port's streetscape and help draw more foot traffic westward, across Union Street, and perhaps help spark more redevelopment on the massive surface parking lots that surround Gorham's Corner.
  • Unfortunately, the "Newbury Street Lofts," that ugly parking garage with condos on top, seems headed towards final approval on Tuesday as well. I happened to meet that project's architect in the neighborhood a couple weeks ago; he was pretty upset with my critique, but tellingly couldn't find any faults with my arguments (it was my tone that upset him). Maybe the final design will hold some improvements — it would be a very pleasant surprise, but the architect and developer seem unwilling to budge on their assumption that new buildings need on-site parking (contrary to the evidence immediately above this bullet point), so I have low expectations.

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