City-Owned Lot in Portland Gets Makeover While Residents Debate Its Future

The property, which sits on the eastern waterfront, is an area some residents think has been negatively impacted by too many tourists

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A city-owned lot in Maine with a lot of local and tourist foot traffic is getting a make-over as a debate about its future continues.

The Portland property sits on the eastern waterfront, an area some residents think has been negatively impacted by gentrification and too many tourists.

The space includes a gravel parking area and sits adjacent to city-owned areas that are developed like the Eastern Promenade Trail, Ocean Gateway and cruise ship terminal.

According to Portland spokeswoman, Jessica Grondin, an effort has been made to develop the lot since 2005, when its improvement was included in Ocean Gateway construction plans.

"We really would like to meet that obligation," Grondin said. "It's something that should have been met a long time ago."

A couple of years ago, the city proposed a very intricate redevelopment of the land which included a dynamic park with climate change pre-mitigated.

The price tag for that was $16 million, which the city rejected, after determining that amount was simply too expensive.

Instead, it will use up to $300,000 allocated in 2018 to repurpose the land by landscaping it and adding seating areas without going through additional steps that would make the space an official city park.

After a more permanent, but cost-effective solution is found that would be pursued.

"This is a temporary way to activate city property," Grondin said. "It's not an official park, it won't have an official name."

Residents walking on the Eastern Promenade Trail on Tuesday were encouraged by the move and that the debate is ongoing.

New mother Katherine Johnston suggested "exercise equipment" because of the high number of people walking and running through the area.

Gemma Casabo, a newcomer to Portland, hoped there would be some areas to "rest" and "maybe a spot to sit after walking your dog and have a drink."

Jim and Naomi Hometh who walk the area regularly and have lived in Portland for more than 40 years say green space is needed and "something different than rectangular boxes of hotels."

As for how to mitigate any lost parking, the city and other residents like the Homeths say "that's a separate issue."

The city expects work on improving the lot to begin in spring 2020.

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