Developer shrinks plans for Munjoy Hill condo project

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. A city inspector dropped some news in the Noyes Street trial today; there’s a huge free lunch in Monument Square tomorrow; and classes are canceled at two local schools on Election Day because of an expected high turnout.

What we’re talking about

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New plans for a condo building abutting Fort Sumner Park. | Courtesy of Saulnier Development

The developer of a proposed Sheridan Street condo building that would block the view from a city park released new, downsized plans, after a city councilor threatened to ban new construction in that area.

Biddeford-based developer Bernie Saulnier responded to Councilor Belinda Ray’s proposed 60-day moratorium by submitting a revised version of his proposal that eliminates a section of the top two floors of the building that most directly blocks the view from Fort Sumner Park.

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The view from Fort Sumner Park as it would appear with the original building proposal for 155 Sheridan Street | Courtesy of Saulnier Development

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The view from Fort Sumner Park as it would appear with the scaled back building proposal for 155 Sheridan Street | Courtesy of Saulnier Development

The proposed six-story complex at 155 Sheridan St. has become a source of tension in the past several weeks because, as originally planned, the top of the building would have risen above the lip of the park, partially blocking the view of Portland and the Back Cove.

So at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Ray, the neighborhood’s councilor, made the surprise announcement that she plans to call for a ban on new construction on the lots around the park.

If passed, the moratorium would stop the city from even accepting any new building plans, but only for 60 days — a relatively minor roadblock for a project of that scope.

“Public parks are not just a footprint of land,” Ray told BDN Portland. “You cannot just preserve a piece of land and not think at all about what goes up around it.”

A consultant for the project hopes the new plans — which developers been tweaking over the past few weeks — will satisfy neighbors.

“A moratorium is unnecessary at this juncture because existing procedures have proven not only adequate but exceptionally capable of addressing stated concerns to date,” real estate lawyer and consultant Patrick Venne wrote in a letter to the City Council. The plans have not been officially submitted to the city.

Ray called the new plans a major improvement, but said she intends to move forward with recommending a moratorium to the full council anyway, likely at the next meeting, on Oct. 17.

“I still feel that it infringes upon the open elements in the park too much,” she said.

Jay Norris, president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization, which has been involved in negotiations over the project, welcomed the changes, but said the developer’s concessions did not go far enough.  

“Our hope remains 100 percent unobstructed views,” said Norris. — Jake Bleiberg

In other news

Portland took a complaint about the Noyes Street building two years before deadly fire, but the inspector never went in — Jake reports on the fourth day of the manslaughter trial of Noyes Street landlord Gregory Nisbet:

A city building inspector responded to the complaint of an illegal dwelling on the third floor of the Noyes Street duplex two years before it burned, killing six young adults, a Portland court heard Thursday. But the inspector testified that he never entered the building.

The CAT fell way short of its ridership goal — The Chronicle Herald of Halifax reports that the ferry ended its season on Oct. 1 having ferried only 35,551 — well short of its 60,000 goal. Still, the ferry’s owner says it met its financial projections.

This food might have gone to waste. Instead, it will feed thousands. — Kathleen Pierce reports:

Two tons of food that would have gone unconsumed was saved in Maine this week. Perfectly fine kale, carrots, beets and more slated for compost or the plow made their way to the Fork Food Lab, where chefs and volunteers are turning this would-be wasted bounty into a hearty stew that will feed thousands Friday in Monument Square.

The board of education voted to close two schools on Election Day because of expected high voter turnout — According to a news release this afternoon: “[T]he Portland Board of Public Education has voted to cancel classes for students at Deering High School and East End Community School on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. Those schools are designated polling places and the high voter turnout anticipated during this year’s general election could disrupt student learning.”

At this rate, Portland will be mostly just Ottos by the year 2050 — Meredith Goad reports that the pizza chain’s sixth, and largest, Maine location is now open for takeout and delivery on the Back Cove. The dining room and bar are slated to open Tuesday.

The Big Idea

‘What Shopping Local Really Means for Cities’ — The Atlantic did a Q and A with authors of a book about how “global and cultural shifts play out in local enclaves.”

Q: Do you think that local shopping streets will continue to survive in major cities?

Sharon Zukin of the CUNY Graduate Center: At least in the United States, we have an advantage: we’ve gone over the hump of modernization. We’ve had supermarkets, we’ve had transnational chains, and we’ve started to move away from completely embracing those models. Now, I think there’s a growing culture of appreciation for specificity; people are again seeing the value of small shops.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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