Community urged to be part of Knightville planning

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee has begun updating recommendations for Knightville, including business attraction, design standards, and historic preservation. 

The project will update the neighborhood’s land use policies and recommendations for growth. It will also examine existing challenges, such as parking, and coming challenges, specifically rising sea level. 

Residents and business owners are encouraged to attend the May 10 meeting on the so-called “Knightville Fore and Aft” project, named as a nod to the area’s shipbuilding history, in the council chambers at City Hall at 6 p.m.

Topics of discussion at previous meetings included reducing the level of controversy accompanying new development, attracting businesses that would benefit Knightville residents, slowing gentrification and creating workforce housing.

Another area of focus included improving facilities and services for walking, bicycling, transit, and other alternative modes of transportation.

City Councilor Susan Henderson, who has lived in Knightville for 40 years and is a member of the committee, said she has seen many gradual changes in the time since she and her husband bought their house on E Street. 

Henderson said when she first bought her home, she wanted a permanent place because she was pregnant and was raising a toddler. The house, built in 1898, was within her family’s economic reach, close to the water, and a in walkable neighborhood. Although at the time not considered a high-status area to live, it was great for her family, she said. 

The area is now a hub for a vibrant art and restaurant scene, and is welcoming new development, such as Big Babe’s Tavern, approved last month to replace the former Griffin Club on Ocean Street. 

Henderson said the neigborhood’s comprehensive plan, adopted in 2005, which focused on creating a mixed-use neighborhood, needs some tweaking, but she is committed to protecting it and its village character. 

“I want to preserve the quality of life here,” she said, of the neighborhood where many of the homes situated on the letter streets were built before 1900, and were constructed for shipyard workers. .

Henderson said she anticipates there will pressure to tweak the plan a lot, to make development more feasible. She said parking is also an issue the city will have to address.

She said she is concerned about developers hoping to make money off the area without really investing in the community.

“Change is inevitable and will occur, but profit is not the only goal,” Henderson said.

The councilor said she also wants to advocate for affordable housing.

The committee meets the third Thursday of each month. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net or on Twitter @JulietteLaaka. 

Ocean Street in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.

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