South Portland gets revised proposal from Martin's Point

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Martin’s Point Health Care submitted a revised proposal Wednesday morning for a medical office at the corner of Ocean and Sawyer streets.

Richard Daigle, vice president of support services for the company, also requested feedback from city staff about whether the new proposal is “viable.”

Martin’s Point’s initial proposal to move from Knightville to the three-acre city-owned parcel in the South Portland Heights neighborhood was first presented to the City Council March 9.

It has generated sustained opposition from members of the public, many of whom reside in the neighborhood. 

Martin’s Point is based in Portland and has offices throughout northern New England. It employs about 800 people, 30 of whom now work in the 10,000-square-foot office at 51 Ocean St.

Its preliminary proposal was for a 17,500-square-foot building at 496 Ocean St. It would replace the former Hamlin School, which now houses the city’s Planning and Development Department. 

Opposition at the March 9 workshop and since then has hinged on residents’ desire to keep the three-acre parcel as mostly green space that also preserves an existing community garden. Another concern is increased traffic the new office is expected to generate. 

A small group of residents has also collected petition signatures from neighbors who want to preserve the property. At Monday’s City Council meeting, neighborhood resident Susan Chase presented more than 250 signatures. 

According to Daigle, some of the neighbors met with Martin’s Point representatives May 7 to see if a compromise could be reached.

The meeting, Daigle said in his letter to the city, “was very productive. We listened carefully to their concerns and their reaction to the concept we shared at the City Council meeting on March 9.”

Daigle also said the revised proposal preserves nearly an acre of the current site – about a quarter – for green and garden space.

“We also explained that in combination with gardening and green space on the 2.9-acre site, it was important for our organization to have a building that was about 12,700 square feet,” which is “slightly larger” than the Hamlin School building’s nearly 11,500 square feet, Daigle said. 

The health center would also require a parking lot with 65-70 parking spaces. 

“Because of the neighbors’ concerns, we have once again revised the drawing to reflect as much green space as possible, both next to the community garden plots and throughout the site with pedestrian access for those who wish to walk the perimeter in a nicely landscaped setting,” Daigle said. 

The new plan would accommodate 45 garden plots in the “sunny portion of the lot …,” he said. Daigle said the plan would be “to give this space back to the city for preservation and community use.”

Martin’s Point anticipates about nine vehicles per hour will arrive at the office during normal business hours. A formal traffic study has not been conducted, Daigle said, but would happen during the Planning Board permitting process.

Neighbors, however, remain dissatisfied, and disagreed with Daigle’s description of a “productive” meeting.

“They talked about revising their plans, but the best they could do is a 12,000-square-foot commercial building at our neighborhood center corner,” Chase told city councilors on Monday. “(That is still) too big for our neighborhood (and would) distort the character of our neighborhood.”

Chase said Martin’s Point is “amenable to try and carve out as much green space for the neighborhood as possible, but that came out to be about a third to half an acre with a parking lot all around, and that’s not acceptable to us.”

Adam Lampton, another neighborhood resident, said the loss of open space is particularly important.

This space is the “key point in the neighborhood where people gather,” he said. “It really does determine the character of the neighborhood.”

Replacing it with a parking lot would be “pretty devastating to the people that live immediately around it,” Lampton told the council. 

In his letter, Daigle said Martin’s Point is “reluctant to proceed with any further outreach until we know where we stand,” because the original design, development and neighborhood outreach cost the company an additional $150,000. 

Near the end of his letter, Daigle also referred to a separate purchase offer to the city, which City Manager Jim Gailey also referenced in an email to councilors Wednesday.

“Staff has done nothing with the offer letter at this time as we have not received any negotiation, willingness, (or) guidance from the council at this point. I won’t be making this offer letter public as it is confidential at this time, though sitting idle on my desk.”

The next step is to bring the revised proposal to the City Council for review.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Sidebar Elements

South Portland received a revised site plan from Martin’s Point Health Care Wednesday morning, May 20. It proposes a smaller building at the corner of Ocean and Sawyer streets than originally planned, and preservation of some green space and a community garden.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.