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Portland City Council OKs zoning change for Bayside towers

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Portland City Council OKs zoning change for Bayside towers

PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday unanimously approved zoning changes that will allow plans for a complex of high-rise apartment towers, parking garages and retail shops to move forward.

The "Midtown" project, being proposed by Miami-based Federated Cos., would construct four 165-foot towers and two parking garages on 3.25 acres of former scrap yards on Somerset Street in Bayside.

But the height of the towers required the zoning regulations to be changed. The old rules limited buildings to 125 feet in most of the area, and to 105 feet where a tower is now planned in the project's $38 million first phase.

The project calls for creating 675 market-rate apartments, a total of 1,100 parking spaces and more than 90,000 square feet of retail space in a blighted part of the city that has long been eyed for redevelopment.

But at Monday's meeting, some members of the public expressed concerns about the height of the towers, claiming they would be out of scale with the rest of the area and will block views of, and from, the peninsula.

"This development, which is bloated in every way, and car-centric, would not receive the blessing of the city in any other neighborhood," said Tim Paradis, a Bayside resident who led a coalition of neighbors that placed advertisements promoting their opposition.

Paradis said the city is looking for a "silver bullet" that would solve the needs of Bayside.

Other speakers at the meeting said Midtown is too good an opportunity to miss.

"We think this is the opportunity, and this is the time," said Michael Bourque, president of the Portland Community Chamber. "These opportunities don't happen in perpetuity."

Alex Landry, a board member of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said Midtown's developers responded "very well" to the needs of the neighborhood and the limitations of the site.

"This is the development we've been waiting for," he said.

Councilor Kevin Donoghue questioned city staff about whether the building heights are in keeping with the vision for the neighborhood, articulated in a 2000 comprehensive plan. Planning Director Alex Jaegerman explained that 165-foot buildings were originally anticipated in the plan, and that the height restrictions were added in 2006.

But overall, Donoghue said, he was pleased that the development meets the goals of the plan, especially by adding "a critical mass of housing" in an area where it's in short supply.

"(Midtown) takes pressure off a very tight market," he said, "... and it's the first market-rate development of any size for over a decade."

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