What’s the hubbub about the Portland Complex (58 Fore Street) and rezoning the Eastern waterfront?
If developers CPB2 get what they want, new zoning would allow them to build a bustling waterfront commercial area, with restaurants, bars, residences and businesses. A plan that could take a decade or more to achieve, and would completely transform that area of the waterfront.
Developers envision a network of buildings with mix uses, public green space, and streets that all lead to the waterfront.
“We want all of Munjoy Hill to walk down to the waterfront,” said Kevin Costello from CPB2, during a presentation at the March West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) meeting.
The presentation was a clear sign that the developers know the project will be of interest to the whole city.
Rezoning of the Eastern waterfront began about a dozen years ago, back when Nathan Smith was mayor. (Nathan, who? That’s alright, he hasn’t been mayor for a while and lives off-peninsula, so don’t worry if you don’t recognize the name.)
Nathan was on hand at the WENA meeting to help promote the development.
Back around the turn of the millennium, the City created an Eastern Waterfront Master Plan. As a result of that process, the City Council rezoned much of the Eastern waterfront to B6, allowing for all sorts of retail, marine business, hotels, bars, restaurants, residential buildings, and more.
They did not, however, rezone the 9.9 acres of the Portland Company complex, located at 58 Fore Street.
At the time of rezoning, the marina on site, home of Portland Yacht Services, did not want their business to be effected by the new zone. So the Portland Complex remained in the Waterfront Special Use Zone.
“We kicked the can down the road,” remarked Nathan Smith at the WENA meeting. He said the intention was always to make the Portland Company complex a part of the B6 zone.
The developer’s goal is to rezone the complex as the next step towards development. The Planning Board has approved their request, and City Council will take up the zoning change next.
Meanwhile, CPB2 will meet Wednesday, March 18th with the city’s Historic Preservation Board (HBP).
The Historic Preservation Board wants to nominate the entire Portland Company property as an historic district, which would, if approved, significantly limit the developer’s ability to move forward with their current plans.
CPB2 formally requested that the HPB board delay further discussions and review on the Historic District nomination in light of the pending rezoning application. This request was rejected by the HPB and the Board will be proceeding with the designation process.
In a prepared statement, Jim Brady, manager of CBP2 stated in part, “The historic buildings on our property are already protected through established city ordinances, and we respect the established process that is already in place to obtain approvals before any historic buildings could be removed. Designating our property as an historic district is, we believe, premature and unnecessarily restrictive.”
In addition to push back from the Historic Preservation Board, there is definitely concern from neighbors. Concerns include building heights that could effect views of the water, parking issues, and increased traffic from bars and restaurants.
From zoning changes, to historic preservation review, to concerned neighbors, there are plenty of stages for the development to go through before any real vision is solidified.
“If we’re lucky, we’re at the first phase [of development] in about two years,” noted Kevin Costello.