Portland picks 4 finalists for redesign of Congress Square

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PORTLAND — Four companies, including two with area connections, have been named finalists in the redesign competition for Congress Square.

City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin on March 25 said the companys are Freeport-based Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture; Yarmouth-based Terry DeWan & Associates in collaboration with Olin Studio (also of Philadelphia); Boston-based CRJA–IBI, and WRT of Philadelphia.

Grondin said 12 submissions for the design contract were received, and the four finalists will proceed to a second round in the selection process that includes interviews with the selection committee, a site visit and May 4 presentations at the Portland Museum of Art.

“We want to hire design professionals that the community will be excited about and who will be good partners with the City and the selected artist,” project manager and city Urban Designer Caitlin Cameron said March 25.

The city also received 97 applications from artists in a separate request for proposals. Finalists from those applications have not been picked, but once chosen, they will also be part of the May 4 forum.

The proposal from Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture said the firm is prepared to work with local artists and the city Public Art Committee on the redesign process.

Boucher also cited a personal interest, having lived in the area before the Dunkin’ Donuts in Congress Square was torn down about 40 years ago.

“Our Congress Square team knows the area well from closely following the process around the possible public land sale and hotel expansion and the subsequent design studies,” Boucher said.

Boucher said his design team will also include engineers from Woodard & Curran and Becker Structural Engineers, and cost estimators from Wright-Ryan Construction.

The company has experience in the 2008 redesign of outdoor areas at Waynflete School and 2009 garden redesign at the Maine Historical Society’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House at 489 Congress St.

The Dewan & Associates/Olin Studio collaboration will also involve the Falmouth office of TY Lin International to handle traffic studies and engineering for the intersections of High, Free and Congress streets.

Dewan & Associates has prior experience in the redesign of Boothby Square on Fore Street in the Old Port, the Bayside Trail near Franklin Street and Marginal Way, and the Statehouse Commons in Augusta.

Olin Studios helped redesign Dillworth Park and the gardens surrounding the Rodin Museum, both in Philadelphia.

“To meet the demands of this project we have assembled a team that couples local experience and awareness of the myriad issues that must be considered with a design firm known for its passion for urban plazas and collaboration with public artists,” the company’s proposal said.

The CJRA-IBI proposal involves a team of four from the company and landscape architect Todd Richardson of Saco, Portland-based Scattergood Design as architects, and the Gray-based traffic engineering firm of Gorrill Palmer.

The scope of the proposal promises to create a “new urban identity” for the area that will use art to highlight Congress Square’s location as “the heart of the arts district” while inviting year-round use and incorporating the “landmark buildings” in the surrounding historic district.

CJRA points to its work in the Boston area, including Chinatown Park in Boston and Point Park in Lowell, as examples of how it might redesign Congress Square.

The WRT proposal cites 50 years of experience, including redesign of the waterfront in Baltimore, and will engage local engineers from Sebago Technics as consultants.

The proposal also promises a redesign to highlight Congress Square’s location while also promoting pedestrian accessibility, year-round day/night use and a “more sustainable square that is more adaptive to microclimate conditions.”

In the request for proposals, Congress Square is viewed as an area including the Portland Museum of Art, the Congress-High-Free street intersection, and the plaza outside the Portland Westin Harborview Hotel.

The plaza was the subject of a protracted legal struggle after the City Council agreed to sell about two-thirds of the land to owners of the hotel, who planned to build an events center.

The September 2013 sales agreement was eventually blocked by a June 2014 public referendum that placed the plaza in the city’s land bank and increased the number of required council votes to sell land bank holdings without a referendum.

Preliminary concepts for the plaza were then presented by city Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine, although funding sources have not been identified.

Last year, the nonprofit Friends of Congress Square Park was awarded a $100,000 grant from Southwest Airlines and the nonprofit Project for Public Places to boost use of the plaza and park for new amenities.

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

Bree and David LaCasse, members of Friends of Congress Square, stroll in Congress Square in April 2015. Portland has narrowed to four the proposals it will consider for redesigning the area.

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.