Diverse Public Participates In Forum Considering The Future Of The Maine State Pier

By Carol McCracken

Yesterday Portland’s planning department hosted a community design workshop intended to garner the public’s view on how the redevelopment of the Maine State Pier should proceed. Later this month, the results will be presented to the city council at its meeting at the city hall. Over 100 people signed up for the event which began at 9:00 am and ended at 1:00 p.m.

Eleven tables were set up at the Ocean Gateway with a facilitator at each table. About eight or nine members of the community were seated at each table. Ground rules were established by the facilitator and then the real business began. Representatives of the community including a state employee, an employee of the working waterfront, an individual with a professional architectural background, a resident of the Portland House condominium on the Hill, a retired businessman and the MHN editor were seated at one table. Molly Casto was the facilitator. Suggestions as to how the waterfront could be developed or preserved as a working waterfront were exchanged in a positive atmosphere albeit a passionate one. Opposing views from those wanting to preserve the working waterfront and those supporting a developed waterfront were apparent from the ‘get go.‘ Floating city employees were constantly available for consultation for groups needing answers to specific questions beyond the scope of the facilitators.

“It’s been valuable to go through these exercises because this has been such a contentious issue over so many years that inviting people into this public process is a good thing. Development is inevitable. The point is whether we do it well or poorly. That’s why we need a professional planning staff like Bill, Molly, Alan and all the others on the staff,” said Ted Sims, a legislative employee in Augusta and participant at our table.

This was the fourth in a series of public meetings designed to provide participants with background information upon which constructive recommendations could be based. The last in the series will occur when the ideas will be condensed and presented to the city council on April 29th at the city hall. The public is invited to attend. The meetings were originally scheduled when Ocean Properties was expected to redevelop the waterfront, canceled when it withdrew from the process and then rescheduled at the urging of Councilors David Marshall and Kevin Donoghue.