On the other hand, he hopes that city leaders are taking the advice Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces gave in a talk at the Portland Museum of Art back in June. “His idea was that we should step back . . . and get an idea of what does the city want this whole area to be,” Turek says. “It’s the important question that no one’s ever bothered to ask.”
His group, which has already begun collecting suggestions for how to make the park better, will participate in the process, though Turek stresses that is not a signal of a changed position. “We want to keep the park. This isn’t a road to compromise,” he warns.
Marshall, for his part, is pleased his original idea has finally been approved by the council. And while he favors keeping the full park public, he indicated city officials may already be leaving that debate behind. “This is designed to open up the conversation to be much more than the park itself,” Marshall says. “Regardless of what happens in that little corner of Congress Square . . . we need to work on some of the issues,” including vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and the overall layout of the area.
You can contribute to the community discussion in several ways. First, and perhaps most easily, propose your own ideas, and vote on others’ suggestions, at neighborland.com/congresssq (yes, that’s three Ss).
Or take an online survey about your use of the area at portlandmaine.gov/planning (it’s in a tiny one-word link in very small print in the upper left corner of the Planning Department page, just beneath “p&d news”).
Also, tweet thoughts with the hashtag #CongressSquare.
If you’re more into meatspace, attend the public meetings that will be scheduled in August and September (check the city’s website for times and places), or go to Congress Square and write down your ideas on signs posted there.
All these ideas will be collected into a report for the public, and distilled into a request for proposals in the fall, seeking an urban-design person or company to develop a master plan of the area.
While an original timeline had data collection happening through September 6, the process is now more “rolling,” says Jeff Levine, director of the city’s planning department. “We’re trying to see which sources of input are the most fruitful,” he says. So keep the ideas coming.
The Friends of Congress Square Park will meet Tuesday, August 27, from 6 to 8 pm, at Portland City Hall, room 24.