Portland Hall developer trades parking for park

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Deering Street change removes preservation concerns

PORTLAND —  Plans to turn the former college dorm at 645 Congress St. into apartments have been altered in response to concerns from neighbors and historic preservation officials.

Greg Shinberg, a partner in Bayside Maine, said this week that he has eliminated 20 parking spaces closest to the Deering Street border of the property and will instead plant grass and trees there. The building currently on that spot will be demolished, along with another wing. 

“It was made clear the Historic Preservation Board wasn’t going to approve (the parking),” Shinberg said. He said he hopes to eventually build on that portion of the property.

The Portland Hall project was scheduled for a workshop April 14 with the Planning Board to review its plans to convert the old University of Southern Maine dorm into 56 one-bedroom and efficiency apartments, with retail shops on the first floor. It will also get a new facade and have 75 parking spots.

The Historic Preservation Board tabled the project  April 1. Shinberg was scheduled to present his altered plans to the preservation board April 15. But according to Historic Preservation Manager Deb Andrews, Bayside Maine is not technically required to get the board’s approval because the section of the property within the Deering Street Historic District is no longer being proposed for any sort of development.

Shinberg said he hopes to get the approvals he needs from the Planning Board within the next month or so, and begin converting the Congress Street building into apartments by the beginning of summer.

In addition to the Portland Hall project, The Planning Board April 14 was scheduled to hold a workshop on a proposal by Eric Cianchette for a zoning amendment that would allow him to build a hotel on the Maine Wharf. 

The board agenda also included a proposal by the owners of Northgate Shopping Center to demolish part of the center in order to build a new CVS with a drive-through window and also to turn the former Boy Scout office building on the property into an office for H&R Block.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.