Portland Planning Board set to vote on Fore Street redevelopment

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PORTLAND — The third component of development just off the eastern waterfront was set for a Planning Board hearing and site plan vote on Tuesday.

Developer Jonathan Cohen, working as 100 Fore Street LLC, is seeking to build a five-story structure at 100 Fore St., the current site of the Hamilton Marine store. According to a report from city Senior Planner Christine Grimando, the project is expected to cost between $23 million and $31 million.

The property is adjacent to the nearly completed headquarters for WEX on Hancock Street, also a Cohen project. Plans for 100 Fore St. include a three-level, 539-space parking garage that will also be used by WEX employees.

Topping the garage will be 82,400 square feet of office space, with those floors set back from Fore Street, per zoning revisions approved by city councilors last September.

Planning Board approval is the final step and will allow the project to go forward. 

There are now 136 parking spaces at the 3-acre site. In all, the plans call for a 275,000-square-foot development on a footprint of 64,000 square feet.

The redevelopment will occur across Fore Street from the redevelopment of the Shipyard Brewing property that includes a 105-room hotel and the new corporate headquarters for Vets Choice.

While the garage will accommodate requirements for the building’s use, city staff has recommended site plan approval also be tied to a new Eastern Waterfront Transportation District Traffic Movement Permit from the Maine Department of Transportation.

“Full compliance with the outcomes of the District TMP is recommended as a condition of approval prior to obtaining a certificate of occupancy,” Grimando said.

The permit would also include the WEX and Shipyard developments, and the remaining city-owned parcel on Thames Street.

The 100 Fore St. site is also adjacent to the former Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St., and the site plan counts on a connector road linking Fore and Thames streets as part of the garage access.

Cohen plans to demolish nearly all of the existing structure, leaving 9,100 square feet for a planned fitness center.

In her report, Grimando said the planned development sits within the B-6 zone “that was compatible with waterfront uses and the nearby Eastern Waterfront Port Zone,” but Cohen’s plans and the scope of development in the area have brought objections from neighbors.

In Planning Board workshops on Oct. 23, 2018, and Nov. 27, 2018, and subsequent emails to the city, traffic flow on cramped streets was a primary worry.

“We strongly oppose putting almost 600 parking spaces on this site. Traffic in the area is already congested, especially in the summer, and street parking has become increasingly difficult,” Waterville Street residents Pamela Day and Michael Petit said in an Oct. 23, 2018, email.

While City Manager Jon Jennings said Jan. 3 that WEX was looking to use multiple shuttle buses to bring employees to its new headquarters from its site in South Portland, Eastern Promenade resident Berry Manter also urged the city to find a way to get shuttles operating from lots away from the waterfront to alleviate congestion.

Manter said the entire scope of development in the India Street area needed consideration.

“This represents, in combined total, a massive increase into Portland’s already notable ‘urban rush hour’ glut on this main thoroughfare in and out of the city,” Manter said Oct. 23, 2018.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Jonathan Cohen plans to build a five-story structure with three floors of parking at 100 Fore St. in Portland.

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.