By Carol McCracken (Post # l,089)
Markos Miller, chair of the Franklin Street Redesign Study group will be a panelist at a discussion focusing on the impacts of arterial roadway designs on Tuesday, March 20th, 7 pm at the Maine Historical Soceity, 489 Congress Street. The focus is on Franklin and Spring Streets here in Portland. Former Hill resident Alan Stearns, executive director, Royal River Conservation will serve as moderator. Planning office staff member Alan Jeagerman is expected to attend as well.
Franklin Street is currently a major corridor for traffic arriving in Portland from !-295. As such it is a massive barrier to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and separates Munjoy Hill from the downtown area of the city. But it wasn’t always that way. Once the area that borders Franklin Street (formerly known as Franklin Arterial) was known as “Little Italy.” Back then, it was a poor neighborhood, but also a very dynamic and closely knit neighborhood. The original Franklin Street was an critical part of neighborhoods in the Munjoy Hill area. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic was integral to the area.
Back in 1967, the razing of “Little Italy” began; it was intended to clear the city of its slums. Around 100 structures were demolished and countless families forced to move elsewhere. There are still people living in the area who remember those difficult days for their families because of the break-up of a close-knit community. This transformation led to Franklin Street as a major automobile thruway for travelers. It probably led to the neglect of the Hampshire Street corridor which businessman Donald Sussman is trying to rebuild. Anyway, Franklin Street has never been an important part of the neighborhoods it backs up to.
In 2006, Miller and some friends of his sought to make Franklin Street more accessible to walkers and bicycles and a place to experience community once again. The Franklin Reclamation Authority was developed. Recognizing the value of this work, in 2008, a grass-roots effort led by Miller was created. It was supported financially by the City of Portland. Numerous meetings of community minded people were held resulting with a presentation of three finalists for the development of the area. The three finalists were on display at a public forum held at the rehersal hall at Merrill Auditorium.
“The next phase of the Franklin Street Redesign Study will be starting this spring. The goal of this next effort will be to analyze the three design concepts (Urban Street, Multi-lane Boulevard and Urban Parkway) developed in the 2009 study and to arrive at a preferred design for the corridor,” said Miller in an email to mhn.com yesterday.
Miller is a teacher at Deering High School. He ran for the office of Mayor of Portland last year. He lives with his wife and son on the Hill.
For more, please visit www.franklinstreet.us