Portland developer wants rezone for downtown city block, site of popular restaurant

Popular Portland Mexican restaurant El Rayo Taqueria sits at 101 York St., where property owner J.B. Brown & Sons hopes to gain city approval for a rezone.
Seth Koenig | BDN
Popular Portland Mexican restaurant El Rayo Taqueria sits at 101 York St., where property owner J.B. Brown & Sons hopes to gain city approval for a rezone. Buy Photo
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 18, 2013, at 2:25 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland property owner hopes to rezone nearly half of a downtown city block, which includes the site of a popular restaurant, to open the door for mixed-use development there.

Developer J.B. Brown & Sons is seeking to change nearly 30,000 square feet of its polygonal property bordered by York, High, Danforth and Maple streets to the less restrictive B-3 downtown business zone to match the zoning of the remaining 34,000 square feet of the block.

Currently, the 7,560 square feet closest to the busy intersection of York and High streets — a site currently home to the Mexican restaurant El Rayo Taqueria — is a B-1 neighborhood business zone. Between that section of the property and Danforth Street, a 22,307-square-foot area, is an R-6 residential zone.

Vincent Veroneau, CEO of J.B. Brown, said his group doesn’t have concrete plans for how it would redevelop the property, and is waiting to gauge whether the city will support rezoning there before it invests in market research and designs.

The Portland Planning Board will hold a workshop on the rezoning proposal Tuesday night. The street addresses listed for the rezone request are 101 York St. and 68 Danforth St.

“We just really want to open the doors,” Veroneau told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “We need a zone change in order to develop that property to its highest and best use.”

Within the city’s B-3 zones, new buildings must be at least 35 feet in height and can cover 100 percent of the lots.

Concept plans submitted to the city planning office show a hypothetical development with two levels of internal parking, commercial spaces at the street level and apartment or condominium units on the upper floors. The J.B. Brown official said fans of the popular Mexican eatery currently at the site should not worry.

“I could see something like an urban grocer on the ground floor and residential units on the top three floors,” Veroneau said. “Our intention is to have El Rayo be part of any development of that site.”

Norine Kotts, general manager of El Rayo Taqueria, said that J.B. Brown has been supportive of her restaurant, even going so far as to testify on the venue’s behalf when it sought city permits for a Cinco de Mayo celebration this spring.

“I do know that J.B. Brown is a fantastic landlord,” Kotts said Wednesday. “As a member of this community, they’ve been really helpful advocating on our behalf. … They’re mindful of their neighbors and their community.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/09/18/news/portland/portland-developer-wants-rezone-for-downtown-city-block-site-of-popular-restaurant/ printed on July 23, 2014