By Carol McCracken
Ever since Markos Miller moved to the Hill, he’s been committed to the community. His vision for the Hill is an inclusive one – where everyone can mix and match – so to speak His limited spare time has been devoted to breaking down the barriers to and from the Hill.
Markos’ latest effort is to break down the barrier that was created between the Hill and downtown Portland when the Franklin Street Arterial was built. It’s only identity is as a road for fast cars – and Markos and the committee that he co-chairs would like to see that changed some day. “This is going to be the Berlin Wall of the Portland peninsula,” said a former Portland city councilor whose name Markos could not recall. “Franklin St. needs safe crossings.”
“There is lots of real estate there. Thirteen acres of land in fact. The roadway takes up less than l/2 of that,” said Markos recently at the Hilltop Coffee Shop which included his busy (and distractingly fun) 2 year old son, Oliver. “It’s prime real estate property that is being wasted,” he added.
“Can you imagine the area with crossings, shops and maybe homes there?” he says. The roadway runs from the Portland waterfront to Bayside. But it’s not “shovel ready” whatsoever for any government funding. Serving as co-chair with Markos is Boyd Marley, former House Representative to Augusta and a former member of the Transportation Committee. He was “termed out” of office.
The Franklin Street group has been meeting for about three months. It’s been researching background material such as what other communities have done with similar areas. Soon the organization will be looking for input from the community as to what they’d like to see on Franklin Street. In fact, that public input is scheduled for a public workshop coming up at the end of next month – April 29th.
The 15 or 16 member group is a diverse group; there are representatives of Maine Department of Transportation, The Chamber of Commerce, the Portland Downtown District, the Portland Housing Authority and more. Markos hopes that an equally diverse group of community members will particiate in the upcoming April 29th meeting at the Oceangateway Terminal-from 6:40 pm – 9:40 pm. “We need all kinds of input,” he said.
Markos is a former president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization. During his term in that position his priority was to bring the community together. A difficult objective in a community that has often been polarized by issues like the narrow gauge railroad and the future course of the waterfront. Markos is a high school Spanish teacher who considered attending graduate school for a master’s degree in planning.
In the meantime, Markos is grateful to Joe Gray, city manager, the city staff and the city council for the success the organization has realized to date. “Without their support we wouldn’t be this far along,” he says.
Please visit www.franklinstreet.us