Portland may 'fine tune' contract to develop Bayside land

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PORTLAND — Property inspections for a mixed-used development in Bayside are taking longer than city officials had hoped.

Now, the city is considering extending the deadline outlined in the contract by 60 to 90 days. But it’s unclear whether the city will enforce financial penalties for the delay.

The City Council on May 23 agreed to sell 3.25 acres of land between Elm and Franklin streets to Miami-based Federated Cos. The land, which had been on the market for $3.6 million, sold for $2.28 million.

At the time, the city put specific benchmarks in its contract to prevent the company from just sitting on the land and reselling it. The contract essentially gives the company a year to conduct due diligence and obtain the necessary permits.

Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director and acting planning and development director, said the city is still in the early phases of discussion and feedback with the developer. 

Mitchell said the company is considering commercial, retail and office uses, as well as residential development and parking garages.

But, he said, “there has been no formal application filed with the city.”

Federated is marketing the development as “Maritime Landing,” but Suzanne Tamargo, the company’s vice president of marketing, referred all questions about the project to city planners.

While no formal application has been submitted, preliminary drawings show seven buildings situated along Somerset Street.

The first floors of each building would be dedicated to more than 90,000 square feet of retail uses. More than 200 one-bedroom and nearly 350 two-bedroom residences would provide nearly 500,000 square feet of market-rate living space.

Parking for more than 300 vehicles would be above the first floor retail space and below the residences of four residential buildings. A garage with space for another 700-plus vehicles would be near a building offering about 96,000 square feet of office space.

The city gave Federated about a year to obtain approvals. 

The agreement required the company, which has offices in Miami and Boston, to make a down payment of $25,000. It had 60 days to inspect the property, before another $25,000 deposit was required.

The company was given 180 days to get permits, but has the option of three, 30-day extensions at a cost of $3,000 per extension.

If the project is not permitted within a year from the signing date, the city can pull out of the contract.

Mitchell said the first $25,000 deposit has been received, but inspections revealed some “minor issues” with the title for the land. The city must also provide a more detailed survey, he said, so the second $25,000 deposit has not been collected.

Once the title is cleared and survey completed, Mitchell said he will ask the City Council – either in December or early January – for a 60- to 90-day adjustment to the remaining schedule.

“We’re in the process of defining those areas (of the contract) that need to be fine-tuned,” he said. “The fine-tuning is going to restart the clock. The restarting of the clock will be the trigger upon which that second $25,000 deposit would be made.”

If the clock is reset, Federated would have another 180 days to get the project permitted. Without that adjustment, the company would have to pay $3,000 for each 30 day extension, starting around April.

Mitchell said he doesn’t expect the adjustment will adversely affect the project.

“The goal is still to get the project under construction next year,” he said. “I still feel like we’re right on track from an overall timing standpoint.”

City Planner Rick Knowland said the company may also need a zoning adjustment for the southern-most residential tower, which would be below the 165-foot height limit, but not meet a required setback.

Ron Spinella, chairman of the Bayside Community Development Committee, said he hopes the project will move forward.

Spinella said he and other residents are “cautiously optimistic,” since other development proposals have come and gone for the properties.

“I think the idea of it – the plan – is for the most part welcome,” he said. “That would be a pretty major project by Portland standards.”

Spinella said he is not concerned the company may seek a variance from height requirements included in the Bayside vision plan, and he is satisfied with the developer’s communication about the project.

“They have made it known they want to be good neighbors,” he said. “We can call them any time.”

The story was updated on Dec. 5 to correct a name.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings