Revised plan for South Portland waterfront concert venue aims for June debut
SOUTH PORTLAND — A new plan could bring concerts and events to the waterfront as early as mid-June, although not on the site originally imagined by Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings.
Jennings and representatives of property owner John Cacoulidis on Tuesday presented the Planning Board a revised plan for an outdoor concert venue on 23 acres of land near Bug Light.
On Feb. 25, Cacoulidis will ask the board to approve a modified site plan review and special exception use for the property, which will be called Liberty Ship Pavilion.
“Why we are in front of you so soon is there is so much interest,” Jennings said, adding that organizers of a folk festival, a wine festival and the Portland Symphony Orchestra have approached the city about using the property at 149 Front St.
The venue is a change from one proposed last fall at the edge of Bug Light Park on land leased to the city by Portland Pipe Line Corp. The potential capacity remains at 10,000, but Jennings said he would expect to draw between 5,000 and 6,000 people to shows.
Steve Doe, a Sebago Technics landscape architect hired by Cacoulidis, said the land tucked between a tank farm used by Gulf Oil and the public city boat launch would be cleared, a lawn would be planted and the area would also be made suitable for vehicles. The stage would sit along the Fore River, so audiences would face Portland Harbor.
Cacoulidis was also represented at the workshop by Thomas Moulton, a broker with the Dunham Group in Portland, who said the venue will be a temporary project for a couple of years while Cacoulidis ponders mixed-use development of the property.
Prior development ideas proposed by Cacoulidis included constructing a hotel connected to Portland by an overhead tram. While this is not part of the new plan, Jennings said the concert venue has drawn interest from Casco Bay Lines, which could ferry passengers between Portland and a pier at Southern Maine Community College.
City Licensing Administrator Jessica Hanscombe said traffic would be directed to the site using Front and Madison streets, and two of the three lanes on the eastern end of Broadway.
Hanscombe estimated the area will have parking for 800 to 900 vehicles, plus nearby SMCC lots. She also said the 6,000 participants and spectators for last summer's "Color Run" in the campus area were able to leave within an hour after the event concluded, and people leaving evening shows may get out even faster.
With the possible exception of the wine festival in October, Jennings said all events would occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when SMCC is not in full session. Shows would be required to end by 11 p.m.
Unlike the original proposal, the venue would not have seating areas that would be assembled and disassembled at the beginning and end of the season. Hanscombe said local vendors would be given preference to serve food, and the individual caterers would be responsible for obtaining state liquor licenses for a designated beer garden.
City officials will also talk with Portland Pipe Line officials about using adjacent land, Jennings said.
The venue would be smaller than the Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor and comparable to the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston's waterfront, Jennings said.
Event permits would be reviewed by city staff, and not require City Council approval, because no street closures would be involved.