PORTLAND – The group of Bayside residents and property owners who appealed the Portland Planning Board approval of the massive Midtown project proposed for their neighborhood have agreed to work with the City and the developer toward a settlement of the court case.
The agreement to work with the City of Portland and Miami-based developer The Federated Companies follows the developer’s proposal to significantly redesign the project’s outsized height and scale. The original plan—approved in the face of significant public opposition—included four 14-story towers and two massive parking garages at the peninsula’s gateway behind Marginal Way.
Federated’s revised proposal to build four 6-story buildings and a single parking garage will now be reviewed by the Planning Board with the developer planning to break ground in the spring of 2015.
Keep Portland Livable co-founder Peter Monro welcomed the agreement, saying: “We fought for almost two years to ensure that the Midtown project conforms with the city’s design standards and its commitment to redevelop the neighborhood in line with the community’s own New Vision for Bayside plan. While not perfect,” he continued, “the new design represents a solid victory for the people of Portland and the members of our group who raised their voices in support of a better plan and a better city, and now will continue to be part of the city’s planning process.”
The grassroots group Keep Portland Livable was formed to advocate for sensible development that is right for Portland. The group led the opposition to the Midtown project and joined with a group of plaintiffs who filed suit in Superior Court in February of this year. The appeal argued that the Planning Board’s many rule changes and waivers, and the failure to ensure compliance with the city’s own Comprehensive Plan were grounds to overturn the project’s approval.
“This agreement to work toward a settlement and redesign of the project demonstrates that we are not anti-development,” said Tim Paradis, the other co-founder of the group. “The future of Portland,” he continued, “is not simply about increasing our population and property tax base. It’s vital that we grow Portland in line with our qualities as a Top Ten best small city. We need to sustain downtown’s unique walkability and promote genuine mixed use development that incentivizes generators of good jobs to invest here.”
The Bayside district had been Portland’s manufacturing and small business powerhouse until the city tore down 1,000 buildings in that neighborhood as part of federal urban redevelopment in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. Over the next forty years, the city turned down proposals to build a medical campus there, as well as a number of smaller scale residential projects.
Both Monro and Paradis expressed appreciation of the initiative by Federated’s founder and Chairman Jonathan Cox in advancing a significant redesign and in working to address a range of the group’s objections to the original proposal.
“Based on the city’s historic neglect of Bayside,” concluded Monro, “we of Keep Portland Livable decided that we could accept and even support Federated’s redesign as the best outcome available, given all the vital city and neighborhood interests at stake. As a part of our movement toward a settlement, the City has also stepped forward and has provided assurances that will advance the aim of better design and public consultation on future projects that come before the City Council and the city Planning Board.”
Keep Portland Livable is asking residents concerned about quality urban design, job creation, and new transportation solutions in Portland to join the organization by signing up on the website (www.KeepPortlandLivable.com), and to follow it on Twitter (@KeepPtlndLivabl) and on Facebook (Keep Portland Livable).
Contact: Tim Paradis: 207-831-7079