Portland Jewish Community Center plans get initial review

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PORTLAND — Preliminary plans for the new Jewish Community Center at 1342 Congress St. call for a 19,300-square-foot building to replace the former St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church.

“We will have a place again,” Jewish Community Alliance interim Executive Director Ellie Miller said Tuesday, a week after the Planning Board held a workshop on the development plans.

While the Planning Board took no action beyond a review of the zoning and how the communcity center would fit on the site, the Zoning Board of Appeals on May 21 granted conditional use on the property for school and daycare programs.

The one-story community center will replace the church, built in 1964, according to city tax records. Services ended at the church in 2013, and the JCA and Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland entered into a purchase and sales agreement in December 2014.

The community center will eventually replace the current center at 57 Ashmont St., which has been in use for 32 years and is too small to house programs including Jewish Family Services, Center Day Camp, and other social service, educational, recreational and cultural activities.

Miller said the public can learn more about development plans, including sketches, at a June 18 meeting, and added the expanded space will be there to serve the entire community.

“The architect (Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Tighe & Bond) has been hard at work and we are excited,” she said. “Work is going on developing the playground, landscaping and being sure we will be good neighbors.”

Expanded space for the food pantry and a public gathering space for sports and other uses, and a larger kitchen are important elements, Miller said.

A memo from city planner Jean Fraser indicates the JCA will need to work out an agreement on a shared driveway with the owners of Westgate Shopping Center. Fraser endorsed the idea as an “an excellent access management strategy” because it would allow drivers to use the intersection at Stevens Avenue and Congress Street.

Fraser added more detail is needed about traffic impacts, pedestrian links and parking at the day care center. The community center would have 50 parking spaces on the 2-acre site.

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

Sidebar Elements

The former St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church on Congress Street in Portland, seen May 22, will be torn down and replaced by the Jewish Community Center. Initial development plans were reviewed by the Planning Board on May 19.

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.