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Everything posted by cneal

  1. The proposal for the Village Cafe block has come out: The project includes over 300 underground parking spaces, ground floor retail space, and 250 condos. City planners are concerned about height (up to 9 stories) blocking out sunlight to the streets below. The developers claim that the height is necessary to keep the residences relatively affordable (the cheapest ones will be $300 k as is). I don't buy this entirely; after all, fewer condos would mean less need for underground parking, which is going to be the most expensive element of the project. I continue to be concerned that luxury development in this area will make Munjoy Hill and other parts of the peninsula unaffordable to the people who work there. And if they move away, they'll take their small businesses with them... and the tacky, soulless boutiques of the Old Port will spread like a cancer to take their place. Here's the compromise I'd offer if I were the Planning Board: let the developers have the extra height, on the condition that 20 or 30 housing units are affordable to people who make less than the median income. Those people are less likely to need so many parking spaces, esp. if they work nearby, so the developers will be able to save money by building fewer parking spots. This is also designed by the same architect (Winton Scott) who designed the Westin and the Ocean Gateway terminal, also in the same neighborhood. He does good work, but I'm also concerned that this whole neighborhood will be dominated by his buildings. It would be nice to have some different designers in play to mix up the architectural variety.
  2. I think that the Amtrak line is planned to go parallel to I-295, the overpass of which you can see in the background here. There's still plenty of state-owned right of way along the highway, which gobbles up a lot of valuable real estate with all of its on- and off-ramps.
  3. Here's another proposed for the Bayside neighborhood, at the NW corner of Franklin Art. and Somerset, across from the proposed Whole Foods Market: Nice rendering, but I couldn't find out anything about how serious the proposal is, whether it's been permitted, leased, etc. Cardente is listed as the real estate agent.
  4. I've been peeved for a while about the demands that the city places on these projects to provide "free" parking. Parking is never really free, of course: it takes up a lot of valuable space. In spite of this, Portland's traffic engineers continue to demand lots of it, in spite of the problems associated with bringing lots of cars into a downtown area. Other cities are beginning to make parking lot owners charge the going market rate for their spaces. This is good economics, for one thing: halting the subsidization of parking will result in more efficient provision and distribution of parking spaces. For another thing, if people have to pay to park, they'll drive less, resulting in less congestion and air pollution, and more pedestrian traffic, and a livelier city. Portland's downtown is extremely walkable. Even on the coldest winter day, one can walk from Longfellow Square all the way to the eastern waterfront with little trouble. So why does this area need so many parking garages? I think that the best solution would be to build a big off-site garage (or garages) near I-295, with regular and reliable bus shuttle service connecting them to various centers on the peninsula. Keep people mobile, and stop burdening developers and business owners with autocratic (and out-of-date) parking requirements!
  5. A new rendering of the Westin project on the east waterfront of Portland. According to today's Press Herald, the Portland planning board unanimously approved a contract zone for the project that would allow greater heights and setbacks for the building. The proposal includes a 230 room hotel and 110 luxury condos. The project architect designed two l-shaped buildings to preserve pedestrian access, and street-level retail space is included. 324 parking spaces will be underground, although the city's traffic consultant would like to see 360 spaces. The project isn't asking for any city subsidies, and in fact, the city may ask the developers to contribute to local infrastructure improvements associated with various Ocean Gateway projects. The city also expects $5 million in annual tax benefits from the project, and 150 to 325 permanent jobs. The Jordans Meats plant that closed on this property earlier this year employed 270 people in manufacturing. This project appears to all to the good: a mixed use development in the city center, another 110 units of housing downtown, and a definite financial benefit for the city. But I'm a little bit concerned about the gentrification of this part of the waterfront. Increasing property values in this area might jeopardize Portland's working waterfront, which is probably the most distinctive and attractive element of this city. If we keep on losing quality manufacturing jobs and water-related businesses on the waterfront in favor of luxury hotels and condos (who will be able to afford to buy these, besides people who spend most of their time elsewhere?), I'm concerned that Portland will lose a substantial part of its soul. What do you think?
  6. The new Mercy location may be surrounded by surface parking for now, but this is only the first phase of construction that will ultimately replace the old hospital site on State St., which has been hampered by its location in a historic, dense neighborhood (the West End). When that happens, not only will a lot of those parking lots be replaced by new hospital buildings, but several blocks in the West End will be opened up for new development. This project is also getting help from road improvements in the area.
  7. Walker Terrace, developed by the same folks who did Casco Terrace, is a mixed-income project proposed for the site of an abandoned gas station site on Congress Street. The developers still need to secure financing before they start to build. A bigger rendering is available at the "projects" section of Archtype's web page here.
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