This Archetype PA rendering depicts a proposed redevelopment of Portland's Fishermen's and Widgery Wharves, featuring a hotel, parking garage and restaurants. Credit: Archetype PA image courtesy of CBS 13

A hotel will no longer be included in a developer’s plan for one of Portland’s wharfs, the city manager announced Friday.

The news that developer David Bateman of Fishermen’s Wharf Portland LLC is dropping its pursuit of a hotel comes as the city grapples with concerns by fishermen over the future of Portland’s working waterfront.

“After many discussions with the Bateman family, I’d like to thank them for taking this important step, as we did not think a hotel use on the waterfront side of Commercial Street was compatible with our working waterfront,” said City Manager Jon Jennings in a statement.

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“This change will go far in addressing one of the major concerns we heard from the fishermen of our working waterfront,” Jennings continued. “I also want to thank city staff for the work they have done and continue to do to make the working waterfront viable for generations to come.”

A group led by local fishermen has argued non-marine development on and around the city’s piers has squeezed out the working waterfront, limiting space and obstructing business for uses like commercial fishing.

The group began collecting signatures in support of a referendum that would seek to reinstate a requirement that all new projects in the waterfront zone be water-dependent, a rule that would effectively block hotels, restaurants and offices, the likes of which have proliferated in the area in recent decades.

In response, the city has implemented a six-month moratorium on waterfront development to convene a committee to find ways to alleviate those concerns.

Bateman’s Fishermen’s Wharf Portland LLC has a conditional zoning application before the city’s Planning Board for 184 Commercial St., where the developer had originally proposed a mixed-use project including a 93-room hotel as well as parking, retail and restaurant space.

In his Thursday letter notifying Jennings of his intention to remove the hotel from the project, Bateman wrote that “we understand the current position of the local fishermen and their concern for this specific use in this location,” adding “we do not wish to be a contributing factor to any actions which would create a negative impact on our fellow wharf owners and, ultimately, the residents of Portland.”

A spokesman for the development group said Friday it’s “too early to say what a redesign will look like” without the hotel included in the project.

[Developer proposes new hotel, restaurant and rooftop bar in Portland]

“[Nathan and David Bateman] just spent several months designing new working waterfront features into their project, but events conspired to deny them the chance to present those ideas — to anybody. So it’s time to regroup,” spokesman Mark Robinson said, in a statement.

“They’re doing what’s best for the city,” he continued. “It’s vital that any waterfront project have the support of the fishermen and their friends and neighbors, the other wharf owners. They’ve been part of this city for decades, and doing what’s best for Portland is the only way that the Batemans approach development.”

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.