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Portland begins Maine State Pier public meetings

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Portland begins Maine State Pier public meetings

PORTLAND — The city has scheduled four public meetings during the next month to gather public opinion about the future of the Maine State Pier.
The series kicks off Wednesday, March 11, with a history lesson about the pier, and a briefing on recent planning efforts and current waterfront policies. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Ocean Gateway Terminal, the city's new cruise ship facility next to the state pier, on the Eastern Waterfront.
The city has been grappling with what to do with the 85-year-old pier since 2006, when at the suggestion of City Manager Joseph Gray the property was rezoned to allow non-marine use, under the condition that a developer would invest millions of dollars in needed repairs. The rezoning was precluded by developer Ocean Properties showing interest in redeveloping the pier.
Ocean Properties and local developer The Olympia Cos. submitted proposals in February 2007, and for several months engaged in a public battle to win the right to build a hotel, office building and retail and restaurant space on the pier and abutting land.
Olympia won the project in December 2007, but the city and the developer were unable to negotiate an agreement due to uncertainty over whether the city or the state own the ocean floor under the pier. That dispute is still unresolved.
Following termination of negotiations with Olympia last December, the city quickly decided to negotiate with Ocean Properties. But that process never got off the ground; Ocean Properties pulled out in January.
The City Council voted in February to hold public meetings to gather input from residents.
This week's meeting will include a history of the pier and its uses by city Historic Preservation staffer Scott Hansen, a policy and planning presentation from city Planner Bill Needelman and an overview of the current condition of the pier and investment options from city-hired consultant Jason Gallant. A question-and-answer period is scheduled for the end of the meeting.
City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city is hoping to get a good turnout at this meeting, because the information shared will be important for the following three sessions.
All of the Maine State Pier meetings will take place at Ocean Gateway:
• March 25, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., "Today's Marine Economy and The Maine State Pier."
• March 26, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., "Understanding the Local Need and Uses for the Maine State Pier."
• April 11, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., "Community Design Workshop: Creating a Pier for Portland's Future."
The city is recommending that people interested in participating in the April 11 workshop pre-register on the city Web site, portlandmaine.gov, or by calling 874-8719.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.
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