Ideas for public works land wanted

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is poised to form an ad hoc committee next month to discuss the future use of the O’Neil Street public works campus, once those services are moved to the new facility off Highland Avenue next year.

While it will will require a formal vote at the Nov. 7 meeting, the committee will likely be comprised of seven members, including Councilor Patti Smith, who represents District 2, which includes O’Neil Street, residents of District 2 and the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood, and members of other city committees and departments.

The new $15.7 million city services campus, at 929 Highland Ave., is being built on 9 acres of land adjacent to a capped landfill and is being completed in phases – the first of which was finished this summer and included a separate new swap shop and transfer station.

The biggest part of the project – a 70,000 square-foot building to house the public works, parks, recreation and waterfront and transportation departments – is expected to be completed in June.

In the meantime, the city wants to plan for potential uses for the public works campus, which was sold to the city in 1940, according to city tax records. The property was assessed this year at $1.4 million.

Most of the six buildings on that parcel, located in the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood, were built in the 1950s. 

Interim City Manager Don Gerrish, at the Oct. 24 meeting, recommended that the committee use the opportunity to gauge the neighborhood’s desire for future use by way of neighborhood meetings and soliciting public input.

The committee would then present three to four recommendations to the City Council for how the land could be used. 

Because the campus is in the heart of the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood, “the citizens are the most important people to listen to” in this process, Councilor Patti Smith said at Monday’s meeting. 

Councilor Claude Morgan said it’s also important to gauge the interest of potential stakeholders in that property early in the process. 

“The earlier we get stakeholders in there,” the better, Morgan said. “Developers, tell us what you can do, tell us what you see when you’re (there).” Likewise, “neighbors, tell us what you see when you’re here, looking at this area,” he said. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

An ad hoc committee will discuss the future use of six-acre plot of land at 42 O’Neil St. in the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood, occupied by the soon-to-be old Public Works campus.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.