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Portland council agrees to financing for big Bayside development

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Portland council agrees to financing for big Bayside development

PORTLAND — The City Council voted Wednesday night to subsidize a proposed retail and housing complex that could alter the city skyline.

The council also approved nearly a half-million dollars in spending to upgrade city streets.

Plans for the Maritime Landing complex call for building seven towers, up to 12 stories tall, on 3.25 acres of city-owned property along Somerset Street in the Bayside neighborhood.

The council voted 8-1, with Councilor Cheryl Leeman opposed, to approve terms of a deal that would include selling the lot to developer Federated Cos. for $2.2 million. The deal has been in the works since the city signed an agreement with Federated more than a year ago.

The city also would give Federated a $9.1 million grant to help build a 700-space parking garage in the project's $38 million Phase 1, which would be completed within three years. As part of the deal, Federated would create at least 40 jobs in the neighborhood and save 200 of the garage spaces for public parking.

Most of the grant would come from a low-interest federal loan the city would repay with future property tax revenue from the project. Federated would pay for the balance of the garage's construction, whose costs are estimated at $15 million.

Ultimately, the Maritime Landing complex would include up to 90,000 square feet of retail space, at least 1,000 parking spaces and more than 600 market-rate apartments. Nearly 200 of them would be built in Phase 1.

While cautious about subsidizing the project, councilors expressed enthusiasm about the project's potential to bring new residents to Bayside and new life to the former site of a railroad lot and scrapyard.

"This is a game-changer for Bayside, and for the city," Councilor Kevin Donoghue said.

But Leeman said the city should receive a greater return on its investment.

"(Maritime Landing) is an incredible deal for the developer ... the city needs a bigger bite of the apple," she said, prompting applause from the audience in council chambers.

The Maritime Landing proposal must still receive approval from the Planning Board, a process that includes neighborhood meetings and a site plan review.

The project also will probably require changes to zoning limits on building height, according to Greg Mitchell, the city's director of economic development. If built as planned, some of the towers would soar to 158 feet, more than 20 feet above the 10-story Intermed building nearby.

Streets

Back at ground level, the city received council approval to pay an extra $412,000 to repair St. John Street and Park Avenue.

Under a previous cost-sharing agreement with the state Department of Transportation, the city was to pay $134,000 to pave the deteriorated streets. But closer inspection revealed they were in worse condition than originally thought, requiring a thicker coat of pavement, drainage repairs and adjustments in the street lanes, Director of Public Services Michael Bobinsky said.

The city's total cost for the road work is now estimated at $546,000. Paying that with current capital improvement funds might require postponement of other paving projects, Bobinsky said.

When Leeman questioned which streets would be bumped from the list of upcoming projects, Bobinsky said his department is still drawing up plans.

Leeman also proposed a directive that the city provide detail on how the extra cost would be funded. "There need to be better options for the (cost) overage, which we created," she said.

The council approved the requirement by a 7-2 vote, with Councilors John Anton and David Marshall opposed. The additional cost-sharing was approved unanimously.

In other business, the council narrowly approved a proposed amendment to the city's snow removal rules. The change will direct the Department of Public Services to spell out exceptions to requirements that residential property owners remove snow from adjacent sidewalks. An appeal process also will be created for property owners who are cited for violating the rules.

The council deadlocked in an August vote on the amendment, leading to Wednesday's 5-4 vote. Opposed were Mayor Michael Brennan and councilors Donoghue, Marshall and Edward Suslovic.

Councilors have said the amendment was unnecessary, because the city has discretion in enforcing the snow-removal requirement.

But the requirement is a "legal gun to our heads," said Janet Daigle, an Outer Congress Street resident and longtime advocate of the amendment.

Anton said residents "would prefer to know rather than to guess" if they are required to shovel their sidewalks.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.