By Carol McCracken
For those who attended last night’s Franklin Street Study Committee unveiling, it was their first opportunity to see the progress that the nine month old Committee has made in incorporating a variety of ideas into three alternatives to “break down the barrier” that the construction of the Franklin Street Arterial created between the east end of Portland and the rest of the city.
At the end of April, over 80 people attended a charrette hosted by the Franklin Street Study Committee at Ocean Gateway. Attendees were divided into 14 groups and facilitators elicited ideas for the Franklin Street corridor which encompasses about 14 acres. Many of these ideas were incorporated into the three alternatives presented last night to the roughly 70 attending the public presentation. Most importantly, it was an opportunity for them to give both written and oral feedback on the three alternatives presented to them; The Multi-Way Boulevard, The Urban Street and the Urban Parkway.
Divided into three groups of people, each group rotated between the three alternatives for about 15 minutes each. Questions were asked and answered by the “station” facilitator. Excited about The Urban Parkway plan, Hill resident Alida Payson said it “does not call for development on community gardens, which the other two do.” The popular community gardens might have to be moved and start from scratch, she was told recentlhy. “East Bayside is lead contaminated and only sunflowers and spinach can be grown there,” she said. Payson works for a non-profit – Cultivating Community.
Bill Hall, a member of the Portland planning board and a bicyclist, said that “street connectivity is very important” to him. He sees a lot of this in these plans. “Pedestrian amenities don’t exist on Franklin Street, such as sidewalks,” Hall said. “Third, access for bicycles is lacking on Franklin Street as well.” Hall lives on Peaks Island.
The Multi-Way Boulevard provides for redevelopment of buildings up to 5-6 stories in height and supports all modes of transportation very adequately. Hugh Nazor, of Federal Street, voiced concern that at this height it could “create another curtain wall” which is one of the major objections to the Franklin Street Arterial itself. Michael Belleau said, “This is a great exercise. Streets need to be connected and the gash needs to be healed,” referring to the Arterial which cuts the two ends of Portland in half.
Mitchell Rasor of MRLD, a landscape company said, “Our plan was to develop the three most diverse alternatives so people could understand all of the different potentials. We didn’t want to show just one scheme. This is a boiling down process,” he said.
Boyd Marley and Markos Miller, co-chairs of the Committee stated that this was just the first step in the entire process. Next comes a feasibililty study whch will begin next year. “I’m pleased with tonight’s presentation. We received a lot of good input. I’ll be interested to look back at these original ideas sometime and see where we started,” said Miller smiling.