Master plan process begins for Portland waterfront project

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PORTLAND — First came drawings, then the site walk as the master plan for developing the former Portland Co. acreage at 58 Fore St. begins to take shape.

An Oct. 13 joint meeting of the city Planning and Historic Preservation boards detailed the scale and scope of what could be a $250 million mixed-use development on 9 acres, with a marina on 13 submerged acres just offshore.

“The goal of this meeting is to provide an overall introduction to this project, and to allow the boards to start from the same place in terms of their understanding of the proposal,” Planning Director Tuck O’Brien said at the outset, before Jim Brady, a partner in developer CPB2, led a presentation that included contributions from an assembled design team.

The meeting was the first of what will likely be many to get the master plan approved. Individual site plan approval is also needed for development that could occur over the next 10 years.

“Approval at the end of this (master plan) process will not constitute authorization or final entitlements for development,” O’Brien said.

A site walk was planned Tuesday, Oct. 18, before both boards take up individual aspects in a series of workshops that will include public comment.

The Portland Co. was once home to foundry and manufacturing operations for the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railway. Seven of the remaining buildings will become the core of office and retail space while sitting in a historic preservation zone approved by city councilors in February.

The residential phase outside the historic zone could bring more than 630 housing units, including townhouses, and a 125-room hotel.

When introducing elements of the master plan last month, Brady said he hoped to have the master plan approved by the end of the year in order to begin the first phase of commercial development in summer 2017.

On Oct. 12, Brady introduced members of the design team to outline the construction plans, integration of historic structures and environmental impact of the project.

In his overview, Robert Brown, managing director of the Boston office of architects Perkins and Will, said the concept looks forward as much as back.

“We really have a visually penetrable site,” he said. “We’re not looking at recreating Old Port, we are not looking at recreating historic buildings. We are looking at taking the scale, character and materiality and going toward the 21st century.”

Randy Dunton, a traffic engineer with Gray-based Gorrill and Palmer, said the site could have parking for more than 700 vehicles, with the idea that some spaces will be shared. Development will require a state traffic movement permit, which the city is delegated to grant, and a transportation demand management plan to help promote non-vehicular access.

City-based architect Scott Simonds said the historic buildings will be incorporated into the office and retail plans, and Building 12 will be moved so it will not be obscured by the redevelopment and extension of Thames Street to intersect with Fore Street.

”You’d be looking down a very steep embankment to the base of the building,” he said.

The workshop also included about 15 minutes of public comment, but Planning Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Boepple requested that speakers keep to the bigger picture.

“This is just the beginning, we will have lots of other opportunities to dig into the details,” she said.

In response to one question, Brady said potential sea level rise is considered in plans by elevating floors in historic buildings and because parking is built below residential units.

Munjoy Street resident Martica Douglas said the plans were misleading.

“I think what has come as a shock is the size of this,” she said. “I think the effort to brand this as an urban neighborhood is misleading. The population will be sociologically and financially uniform.”

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

Developers of the former Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. in Portland have started the master plan approval process for the mixed-use development.

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.