Congress Square Negotiations Begin

July 16, 2013 in Articles

Author: Michael Sosnowski
Publication: Portland Maine Real Estate Blog

Congress Square Negotiations Begin

Posted by Michael Sosnowski

It wouldn’t be Portland if there wasn’t controversy!  The most current debate is around what to do with the Congress Square Plaza.  Rockbridge Capital, who purchased the Eastland Park hotel in 2011 and is currently in the final stages of a $40 million renovation, is trying to persuade city to sell two-thirds of the plaza.  If this is done, they will build a 9,400 sqft event center as part of the overall project.

The historic 86-year-old hotel is scheduled to reopen in December as the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel.

Public discussion has been going on for months and several conceptual plans have been presented.  As expected (and typical) opposition groups have been vocal, and as a result various plans have been presented by the developers.

For a review of the plaza’s history and potential new design, you can download the report: Congress Square Plaza.

The most recent hurdle to be passed was a meeting of the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee at the end of May.  In a 3-1 vote it was decided that the city should move forward with negotiations to sell the park property to Rockbridge Capital.

Prior to this decision, the task force assigned to find solutions to improving the plaza was deadlocked 6-6 as to whether to support the Rockbridge Capital plan.  This led to tweaks in the design and the subsequent HCDC meeting, public review and subsequent 3-1 vote.

Passion on All Sides:

Some comments on the plan, from those in attendance at HCDC meeting include:

  • “We need to improve the plaza, not privatize it….”
  • The new design was not “substantially different” from previous ones.
  • Repurposing the plaza as a true plaza .… does indeed net us less open space, but it unequivocally nets us better open space….
  • The event center would “enhance what is happening to Congress Square” …. the event center  proposal would be “a fantastic opportunity that will not happen again anytime soon.”
  • “The vast majority of Portlanders will not want to see this park go away….” (really?)
  • …. opposing it in favor of improving the existing plaza is the result of a “misconception,” because there are no plans to do so.

Next Steps

Following negotiations (assuming they are successful), a vote will be required by the Portland City Council to approve the sale.  There will still be ample time, however, for more debate – as expected.




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