Brownfields color Portland's East Bayside rebirth

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PORTLAND — A one-hour bus ride around East Bayside last week showed how the neighborhood is redeveloping, and how much of it is hampered by contamination from an industrial past.

“We are following the risk-takers into the neighborhood,” Caroline Paras, community and economic planner at Greater Portland Council of Governments, said during the June 30 tour.

The excursion, preceded by a workshop and followed by an advisory committee, helped determine where federal dollars passed on by GPCOG and the city can fund efforts for environmental remediation.

The advisory committee of East Bayside business owners, residents and government officials is led by City Councilors Jill Duson and Belinda Ray. It was formed last year when the neighborhood was selected for a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant.

The study is overseen by GPCOG, working with the city and engineering firm Woodard & Curran as consultants.

On June 30, the advisory committee informally selected three lots and one building as sites for potential remediation. Those efforts will begin with technical assistance services, including possible community forums on land use.

According to the EPA, “Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

A 2 1/2-acre lot off Anderson Street owned by developer Mike Cardente was the top choice. It’s land Cardente said was contaminated by railroads and a metal scrap yard.

Also selected was the strip of land between Franklin and Boyd streets known as “Franklin Preserve,” once the site of housing that was razed when Franklin Street was widened, and now seen by the Portland Housing Authority as a spot for new development of at least 48 units of mixed-income housing.

PHA Development Director Jay Waterman showed the Bayside Anchor project across Boyd Street as an example of what could be built in the neighborhood.

“This site was really an underutilized parking lot,” Waterman said of the four-story building that will add more than 40 apartments to the neighborhood.

The 250 Anderson St. building that is home to Running With Scissors was a choice not originally proposed in the 11 suggested by Woodard & Curran project manager Jedd Steinglass. But the property made it to the list because Running With Scissors’ owner Kate Anker said she would like to keep expanding the studio sites for local artists.

The final selection is land owned by the Maine Department of Transportation at the end of Marginal Way as it approaches the Port Water District water treatment plant.

The advisory group still wants opinions from members who could not make the meeting and tour.

East Bayside was a center of the city’s industrial past and has attracted new businesses in the last few years, including Coffee By Design, Urban Farm Fermentory, Rising Tide Brewing and Performance Building Supply.

The legacy of contamination was broken down into industrial use – from petroleum products – and noncommercial and residential uses that could require interior remediation for substances such as lead paint. Ash dumped after the Great Portland Fire in 1866 is also a source of contamination.

In the last month, planning and cleanup efforts got a boost as GPCOG received $400,000 in federal money to investigate brownfield sites throughout Cumberland County, and the city received $800,000 in federal funds for its Brownfields program.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Developer Mike Cardente describes the enviromental hazards on his Portland property on June 30. The land on Anderson Street in East Bayside was selected as a possible choice for a Greater Portland Council of Governments study.

Portland Housing Authority Development Director Jay Waterman describes the construction of Bayside Anchor on Boyd Street on June 30. The stop was part of a GPCOG tour through contaminated “brownfields” in East Bayside.

At the far end of Fox Field in Portland’s East Bayside is new housing constructed at 89 Anderson St., built on pilings to avoid excavation that would have required environmental cleanup.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.