Written by Craig Lyons
Touted as just what Bayside could use and denounced as the type of development Portland doesn't need, the public got a chance to weigh in on the proposed Midtown project.
The Portland Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed Midtown development Tuesday but will continue deliberating on the future of the multi-phase mixed use development at another meeting. The board heard roughly two and half hours of public comment both for and against the development, from people who called it a much needed infusion of housing and people and from those who decried it as an out-of-scale development that will not best serve Portland.
The Midtown project would occupy a former scrapyard on Somerset Street. The Midtown master development plan includes up to 775 housing units, 100,000 square feet of retail space and two parking garages with 1,120 spaces.
The first phase of the project — centered on the parcel between Pearl and Chestnut streets — is estimated to cost $38 million, and will include a 700 space parking garage, 225 housing units and 43,000 ground-level retail space.
"We need this development. We need this housing stock," said Bayside resident Tom Blackburn. "this is an opportunity to repopulate an area of Portland that desperately needs vitality."
Sean Kerwin, a Bayside resident, said the Midtown project has a chance to transform the neighborhood and bring much needed residents and businesses into the area. Others challenged the project.
"Midtown is not the Bayside Vision as we carefully planned it," said resident Keri Lord, and does not make the area more walkable or feel like a neighborhood.
"You're disturbing a neighborhood we were trying to build with a vision," she said.
Lord said the project is out of scale with the rest of the city, will mar Portland's skyline and is not the type of project that's needed.
As the review process of the development moved forward, a group called Keep Portland Liveable was formed by Peter Monro and Tim Paradis to block the project which they say is a "massive mistake."
Monro said the project application does not give people a true picture of its impact on the city's skyline and views because it doesn't show an three dimensional models or street-level views, and views from or toward the downtown will disappear. He said the board ought to require mid-block connections at Cedar Street, better connectivity to the Bayside Trail, larger sidewalks and a more thorough consideration of wind impacts created by the project.
Paradis presented the board with a petition, which was signed by 335 people, asking to board to reconsider the Midtown development and find another project more compatible with the neighborhood.
Robert Sylvain said development is a difficult issue for Bayside and it seems it's always been a choice between a half decent project that's scuttled or a crappy project that's approved.
"No project is perfect," he said, but there's an opportunity to perfect an imperfect project with the Midtown development.
Federated Companies and the city negotiated a purchase and sales agreement in 2012.
As a part of its development plan for the parcels, the city wanted to create a 700-space parking garage on the site, according to a memo, and worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to secure a combination of loans and grants to make that possible.
In September 2012, the City Council agreed to give the developers $9 million in grants and loans to pay for the construction of a 700-space parking garage.
The grant funds will come out of a $12 million program developed in 2008 and 2009 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that would provide $10.2 million in loan assistance and $1.8 million in grant assistance, according to a staff memo.
The city estimates that the property tax received through the phase one development is expected to cover the cost of the loan.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 03:27
Written by David Carkhuff
A head-on collision on West Commercial Street in front of Benny's Famous Fried Clams left an elderly man with serious injuries Tuesday shortly before 5 p.m.
Emergency responders used jaws of life to extricate the elderly driver, who received serious injuries when his Mercedes and a Jeep collided, according to Tim Nangle with the Portland Fire Department.
A Bramhall Station engine and two ambulances responded, and it took emergency responders about 17 minutes to disentangle the elderly patient, according to Nangle. The driver was taken to Maine Medical Center. The other driver went to the hospital for precautionary reasons, Nangle said.
The call came in during rush-hour traffic at 4:52 p.m. and the scene was cleared around 5:35 p.m. Police are investigating the cause. Road conditions did not appear to be a primary cause for the crash, according to the investigating officer, Nangle said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 03:15
Written by Staff Report
Two veteran political figures have joined independent Eliot Cutler in his quest to become Maine's next governor.
Kyle Bailey, a former activist and fundraising director for Equality Maine, and Crystal Canney, a former reporter, a communications specialist and spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, have both taken roles in Cutler's campaign operations, according to a press release. Bailey will serve as a fundraising strategist, and Canney will serve as the communications director, through her firm Canney Communications.
"I have great respect for Kyle as a political leader, fighter for equality and proven fundraising," Cutler said, in a statement. "Raising money as an Independent isn't easy, but having Kyle on our team gives us a tremendous asset. I am honored to have his support and assistance."
Bailey was the development director for Equality Maine and the state finance director for Mainers United for Marriage, according to a press release, and raised more than $6 million for those two efforts.
"I am excited to have Crystal join my campaign because I can't think of anyone who brings more credibility to this role," Cutler said, in a statement. "She is highly respected by Maine people and the news media for her work in journalism and politics, and represents a significant addition to our team."
Canney was most recently the communications director for King and also worked with him during his 2012 campaign. She worked for 20 years in broadcast news, accruing numerous awards and honors, before becoming the communications director for former Gov. John Baldacci in 2005. She later started Canney Communications, which works with government entities, businesses and nonprofits on political issues and campaigns.
Both of Cutler's staff additions promoted him as the best person to occupy the Blaine House.
"Eliot will be a bold and courageous leader for our state because he is not beholden to party leaders, special interests or lobbyists," Bailey said, in a statement. "He understand what it's like to run complex organizations, and has the relationships and know-how to get our economy moving again."
"Eliot will bring Maine pope together and lead our state with vision and courage," Canney said, in a statement. "As an Independent, he is not bound to one party or another. Instead, he can choose his cabinet from both sides of the aisle. After spending the last year in Washington, I saw firsthand that non-partisan independence is desperately needed. The partisan bickering serves no one. The political games are a detriment to the people and it's time to take our democracy back and put the special interests aside."
Cutler is running against incumbent Republican Paul LePage and Democratic challenger Mike Michaud.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:10
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter will get a big boost from Five for Fighting, who is singing in Scarborough at a sold-out concert to raise money for the Preble Street facility.
Five for Fighting appears at The Landing in Pine Point on Wednesday, Dec. 11, along with local favorite Amy Allen. Five for Fighting is the stage name of American singer-songwriter John Ondrasik. He is best known for his piano-based rock, and Top 40 hits "Superman (It's Not Easy)," "100 Years," and "The Riddle."
Ondrasik was resting his voice for the show and was unable to participate in a phone interview, so he offered his thoughts on the concert via email.
TG: The concert benefits the Preble Street Teen Center. How did this connection come about?
JO: Credit to Coast 93.1 who chose Preble Street. Props to them for raising funds for such an important and worthy cause.
TG: How can music help out in the lives of teens with challenges?
JO: I've found in my career, music can be a great source for both fundraising and building awareness for various causes. With teens in particular, music is such a big part of their lives, a song or a message from one of their favorite artists can be crucial. It's important to recognize that we are role models and can make a difference, both positive and negative.
TG: What/who are your musical influences?
JO: As a piano player I grew up with Billy Joel, Elton John and the great songwriters of the 70's. Of course if I could only pick one it would stop and start with the Beatles.
TG: What is your connection to Maine?
JO: One of the best parts of my job is that I see all parts of America, and if there is a more beautiful state on a summer day than Maine, I've yet to find it.
Photo courtesy of jeremy Cowart
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 02:35
Written by David Carkhuff
Central Maine Power reported that 974 customers were without power Monday due to the winter storm that rolled in, resulting in a rash of motor vehicle crashes.
All of the outages in Cumberland County were in Brunswick, according to CMP. Another 31 outages were reported at 7 p.m., nearly all of them in York County, the utility reported. For updates, visit http://www.cmpco.com/outages/outageinformation.html.
The Maine Turnpike Authority warned of treacherous conditions throughout the day Monday. "Wet roads + low temps = slow down & follow at a safe distance," the authority warned on Twitter. The agency noted several crashes as speeds were reduced to 45 mph on the Turnpike as well as a section of Interstate 295.
The Department of Public Services in Portland stayed busy Monday, but the agency did not call a winter parking ban, based on a posting at 7 p.m. Monday. For updates, visit http://publicworks.portlandmaine.gov/default.asp.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 00:42
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