Portland council committee focusing on selling property

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PORTLAND — From public works to parking lots, the city plans to sell land.

“It will be one of our goals to dispose of as many city properties as we can. The economy looks like it is the appropriate time. Hopefully we will yield the greatest return we can get,” Councilor David Brenerman said Monday, six days after his Economic Development Committee met and discussed potential land sales throughout the city.

Bayside, where land once occupied by the city Public Works Department is headed to the market, is of the most immediate concern. 

Brenerman anticipates a Jan. 31 public hearing to get opinions on what the future uses of six parcels on Hanover and Parris streets might be. The city is close to engaging CBRE/The Boulos Co. as brokers.

In a memo to the committee, Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell also said a parking lot on Thames Street next to Portland Co. land, a jointly owned parking lot on Free Street, and industrially zoned land on Riverside Street are drawing interest.

Later this year, Brenerman said attention could be focused on land off Stevens Avenue between Redlon Park Road and June Street that could become public open space. 

For almost two years, city Public Works services have been shifting from Bayside to properties on Canco Road that used to be the home of appliance distributors Nelson & Small and PepsiCo.

The city has so far committed more than $7 million to acquire and convert properties at 212 Canco Road and 250 Canco Road. The move was funded in part with $930,000 from land sales, including the Bayside properties once used for salt and sand storage. That parcel is now home to Bayside Bowl on Alder Street.

The city sent out a request for proposals to develop land at 52 Alder St. and 65 Hanover St. in March 2015. Avesta Housing was the only agency to respond, and proposed the city give it the land to develop affordable housing that would also be funded in part with a tax increment finance zone. The RFP was not approved.

“The most important thing is, we change the use to try to improve the neighborhood,” Brenerman said about selling the remaining land.

Mitchell said an RFP should be issued for the 1 1/2-acre parking lot on Thames Street now used by some private companies, nonprofits, as well as some city staff.

“We think it is not the best use for surface parking, but somebody needs to offer a place for those vehicle parking,” Brenerman said.

Selling the lot could also help “secure the required public street right of way for the new Thames Street to Fore Street connector road,” Mitchell said. As development of the former Portland Co. at 58 Fore St. progresses, Thames Street will also be extended and a road connecting the area near the waterfront to Fore Street will also be built.

While Cotton Street was absorbed by the parking lot that bears its name, Mitchell has also suggested the lot between Free and Spring streets go on the market. Redevelopment of the lot was also envisioned as part of a study on how to reconstruct Spring Street and allow more mixed uses.

Brenerman said the lot was created about the time Spring Street was expanded more than 45 years ago. The city received U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development funding, and Brenerman said money earned from the sale would have some restricted uses. It could be used to fund future Community Development Block Grant projects.

“We need parking, but if there is another use that will yield something close to the value of it, it is worth the city’s investigating it,” Brenerman said.

The 7-acre lot on Riverside Street near the western edge of the city is a rarity, as it is ready for industrial use. Brenerman said the city received two offers last year, and are in more negotiations now. There is an easement affecting access to the property that has to be settled, he added.

Last year, the city Land Bank Commission began considering how more than 50 parcels off Stevens Avenue could become public open space. Brenerman said the land, which includes almost 20 city-owned parcels, would be difficult to develop because it either wetlands or set on rock ledges.

While not expecting more discussion in the near future, Brenerman anticipates that the topic will be a part of this year’s committee work.

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

A 1 1/2-acre parking lot near the waterfront on Thames Street is high on a list of properties Portland may sell this year.

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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.