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PORTLAND, Maine — Long-awaited plans for a Bayside neighborhood project would convert an area of former rail- and scrapyard into seven tall towers for housing and retail space.
The plans, to be publicly considered for the first time by the city this week, propose seven towers between 120 feet and 160 feet in height for much as 90,000 square feet of retail space and 600 or more residential units, plus more than 1,000 parking spaces, on the 3.25-acre Bayside parcel.
“Those are big parcels that don’t look good now, and that [project] could be transformative,” said Chris O’Neil, government relations consultant for the Portland Community Chamber. “The injection of that many residents into that neighborhood has to translate into an infusion of economic activity that would be very important.”
About 14 months ago, the city of Portland entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the development firm Federated Companies with an eye toward repurposing the undeveloped former scrapyards along Somerset Street, which in recent years have stood out visually among the housing and new development that has taken place in the area — including the towering InterMed office building and relatively new retailers such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Eastern Mountain Sports.
On Wednesday, the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee will get its first public look at the plans for the property that resulted from more than a year’s worth of closed negotiations between city officials and their Federated counterparts.
Plans submitted to the committee show that the $38 million Phase I of the Federated project would feature two towers — one 10 stories and one 12 stories high — on opposite sides of a 700-space parking garage. The buildings would house between 160 and 176 residential units, as well as between about 37,000 and 42,000 square feet of retail space. Phase I, which would stand on the eastern side of Chestnut Street, could be completed within three years.
The second phase of what the developer is calling Maritime Landing, on the western side of Chestnut Street, does not have a cost or time table associated with it in committee documents. But current drafts of Phase II feature 340 more parking spaces, another 45,000 to 50,000 square feet of retail space and between 430 and 482 more residential units. The Phase II complex depicted as five towers between eight and 12 stories in height, with the tallest of the buildings standing alone on the far side of the lot and the other four growing from atop a common parking garage structure.
The city is distributing approximately $9 million in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant funding dedicated for parking expansion to The Federated Companies, and the firm is agreeing to create at least 40 permanent full-time jobs in the neighborhood with the project, Portland Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell wrote in a memo to the committee.
Mitchell also told committee members that, in order to move forward, the developers will need to seek waivers allowing them to build taller than city ordinances allow in the area — city rules currently cap buildings at 105 or 125 feet, depending on the location within the property in question.