Public invited to discuss massive Portland waterfront project

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PORTLAND — The group planning to redevelop the former Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. will host a neighborhood meeting at the site at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4.

The meeting is the first following CPB2’s application to the city Planning Board for a master plan and traffic movement permit for mixed-use development of the land and submerged acreage.

CPB2 partners Jim Brady, Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello discussed the wide-ranging master plan at a Sept. 14 news conference, where Brady estimated the development could cost $250 million and be spread over the next decade.

“The planning that has gone into this has taken a number of years. It is one of the most exciting sites to be developed along the East Coast,” he said.

Once the home of manufacturing for the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, the 10 land acres and 13 submerged acres bought by CPB2 from businessman Phineas Sprague Jr. in 2013 is now envisioned as having more than 630 housing units and a 132-room hotel. Also planned are a 220-slip marina, 60,000 square feet of retail space, and 124,000 square feet of office space between Fore Street and the waterfront.

Brady said the first phase of construction and rehabilitation of the historic buildings could begin next summer. He said the master plan and detailed phases have led to corporate interest, including “two publicly traded companies,” that could lease space.

The $250 million cost is based on an estimate of $200 per square foot, Brady said, but a more detailed cost analysis has not been made.

The first phase of commercial development also includes creating public access from Fore Street to the waterfront, which is expected to tie into the city development of Amethyst Park near the Ocean Gateway Terminal.

A master plan for the park will be developed with $80,000 in the capital improvements budget. Public access to the Eastern Promenade Trail will remain. Should the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad not move to Gray, Brady said that service could remain on the waterfront; the walking trail and railroad tracks are protected by a state right of way.

Housing plans could be amended as the city market changes, but Brady noted 10 percent of the housing will be priced so people earning 110 percent to 120 percent of the area median income can afford the units.

“This is the first and only large-scale project to fall under those ordinances,” he said of new inclusionary zoning regulations approved by the City Council a year ago.

Prentice cautioned the preliminary drawings detailing the size and scope of the development are not the final individual site designs that will be submitted to the Planning Board. Much of the Portland Co. site is now a historic preservation district; seven buildings will be incorporated into the commercial development in the first phase.

Public comment will also be taken at Planning Board hearings on the master and individual site plans. A joint meeting with Planning Board and Historic Preservation Board members is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Oct. 12.

The planned hotel and housing are not within the historic district, but Prentice said the final designs will incorporate the historic aspects of the area. He also compared the master plan process to the development of Thompson’s Point on the Fore River, noting that plan was approved in 2013 and has been revised three times since.

The housing and hotels will rise above street level as Fore Street ascends to the Eastern Promenade, but not to impede views from St. Lawrence and Atlantic streets as those descend to Fore Street.

The development attracted opposition after CPB2 sought a zoning change to allow the mixed use plans. In 2015, Save the Soul of Portland, established by Munjoy Hill residents opposed to any development blocking waterfront views, tried to amend the zoning through a referendum question that would have also required more stewardship of other panoramic views in the city.

The referendum was defeated 11,794 to 7,003 last November.

Mayor Ethan Strimling attended last week’s press conference and said he was pleased by CPB2’s commitment to public input.

“I think this is a good first step, they have invested good money in trying to develop a plan that fits in with the waterfront,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the community process and what they think can be improved.”

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

A rendering shows proposed development at the former Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. in Portland. The cost is estimated at $250 million.

CPB2 partner Jim Brady discusses plans for 58 Fore St. on Sept. 21.

A rendering shows development of the former Portland Co. property along Fore Street in Portland.