Proposal for Congress Square Plaza Unveiled at Workshop; Public Input Sought

The Future of the Congress Sq. Plaza was Discussed at City Workshop. The Future Site of the Union Station Clock Has Yet to be Determined.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,402)

Developers of the historic Eastland Hotel in Portland’s Art District unveiled its proposal to convert 5,000 sq. feet of  Congress Square Plaza into an events facility to a workshop of a city committee and a standing room only crowd at city council chambers earlier today.  The entire area is about 10,2000 sq. ft. No public testimony was taken today, although there will be an opportunity for that at the end of May before the same Housing Committee.

The events facility is necessary to the major rennovation of the luxury hotel because it will provide a much needed  “flow” space that is lacking in the rest of the hotel because of its layout said Patrick Costin, architect for the events facility.  Part of the attraction to the corner of Congress and High Street was the energy that has been produced by the creative community in the last fifteen years.  “It is this vitality RockBridge has invested in,” he said.  The events facility would reach out to the artistic community around it by providing a glassed in area – a gallery – dedicated to displays of art from nearby galleries.

While the events facility addition was not well defined, Costin did say it would be a contemporary structure,  built of glass, wood and limestone. The intent would be to connect the outdoors with the indoors by transparency.  The remaining portion of the plaza will feature granite benches and trees.  No major events, musical or otherwise,  would be scheduled for the plaza.  It’s intended as a plaza for coffee drinking and “people watching” activities. Since the hotel is located in the Arts District, space would be provided for the installation of  piece of public art.

Following the meeting, Lin Lisberger, co-chair of the city’s Public Art Committee lauded the emphasis of public art by RockBridge:   “The public art committee embraces the idea of a landmark piece in Congress Square.”

Mayor Brennan said:  “This is a substantial, incredible proposal and it’s a start for the discussion of the future of Congress Sq. Plaza.  It’s a concrete first step.”

For a schedule of public meetings and more background information,  please see Post # 1,338, dated 4/18/13 herein.