By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,338)
A downtown plaza originally built to attract tourists to hotels in the area, became the center of a tug of war last summer. Since it was built, there are fewer hotels in the area and fewer tourists generally. It has lost much of its appeal due to neglect over the years. The Congress Street Plaza has become a haven for street people looking for a central location that is close to many of the city’s social service agencies they frequent.
Last August 1st, Adam Valente, of RockBridge Capital, who is rennovating the adjacent Eastland Hotel into the Westin Portland Harborview, proposed to a city appointed task force, that it purchase some of the plaza from the city and convert it into a ballroom for the Hotel’s use exclusively. Numerous opponents of that plan spoke in opposition to it during a sometimes emotional four hour meeting before the Congress Square Redesign Study Group (CSRSG). They reasoned the Plaza belongs to the public and should not be sold for private profit. The CSRSG, chaired by David Marshall, soundly rejected the proposal because it lacked any financial commitment to the plaza. The matter was to have gone to the City Council for resolution last September, but never did.
The proposal is back on track according to a notice from the city’s planning office. Because of the amount of public interest in the matter, it has just released a schedule of public meetings, at which the company’s architect will present his proposal for a ballroom addition to the Westin. The meetings are:
April 24, 2013 5:30 PM HCDC workshop, City Council Chambers. This will be a single agenda item meeting to receive Rockbridge Capital’s presentation/proposal and for HCDC discussion with NO public discussion to take place here.
May 2 to May 28. Eastland at Westin at Harbor’s Edge representatives will be available to meet with various organizations and associations upon request that are interested in engaging directly with them.
May 22, 2013 5:30 to 7:30 pm, Congress Square Redesign Study Group, City Council Chambers. This will be an opportunity for the CSRSG to review the revised proposal and send their comments and recommendations to the HCDC and City Council.
May 29, 2013 HCDC 5:30 pm public meeting. This will be a single-item agenda to receive public input on the Eastland at Westin at Harbors Edge presentation/proposal. At this meeting, it is expected that HCDC members will outline the process for any future meetings. It will then most likely go to the City Council for resolution.
For more background information, please visit Post # 1,189, dated August 2, 2012 and Post # 1,193, dated August 8, 2012.
Please contact Alex Jaegerman at the city’s planning office for more information or Greg Mitchell, Head of the Economic Development Office.