Building up the Baysides

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  August 16, 2010

Some of those repairs will come out of a soon-to-be-commissioned examination of three different new-Franklin scenarios, all of which aim to slow down traffic, encourage development along the road, and increase points of access for bicyclists and pedestrians. (Learn more about these at franklinstreet.us, maintained by the Franklin Reclamation Authority, a citizen-action group leading the Franklin-facelift charge.)

Stakeholders (which include residents, transportation advocates, the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization, the Bayside Neighborhood Association, the city of Portland, the League of Young Voters, real estate developers, and local businesses) have to look beyond fixing Franklin, however.

There are other challenges. East Bayside is the most ethnically diverse Census tract in Maine; both Baysides have equally diverse land uses (ranging from residential to light industrial to open space to retail). Residents in these neighborhoods are poorer, on average, than in the rest of Portland. And while representatives from both sides of Franklin are working together, these neighborhoods are at different stages in the new-development process. For the past several years, in keeping with a Portland Planning Board vision for the neighborhood, Bayside has seen more than $80 million in new investments like the Intermed building, Whole Foods, and the Miss Portland Diner (there are also few failed projects, such as the MaineHealth building). Upcoming endeavors include the Walgreens on Marginal Way and Trader Joe's in the old Wild Oats space.

As a success story, Knowland points to the Chestnut Street Lofts, which finished construction in 2007. "That was really the first privately developed housing in Bayside since right after World War II." What drew the developer? "We've tried to make Bayside more pedestrian-friendly, walkable. The newer buildings have been built close to the street . . . the purpose of that is to give Bayside more urban character. There was a lot of community input," he adds. The developers also benefited from a municipal loan program that funds the cleanup of polluted land parcels — the lofts are on a former brownfield site.

All this comes from the city's "New Vision for Bayside;" a similar plan — a collaborative vision that helps shape future growth — is in order for East Bayside.

To properly steward development in these dense and diverse neighborhoods, interested parties must consider everything from transportation concerns (like what buses run where) to zoning regulations (which dictate how to separate and integrate different types of properties) to development incentives (like tax breaks or loan funds).

They'll benefit from some outside perspective. In 2009, the Washington, DC-based American Institute of Architects chose Portland, and specifically East Bayside, for inclusion in its community assistance program. The grant allowed for the AIA to send a team of community planners, sustainability experts, and architects to Portland. The group gathered data during two trips this winter and spring; they released their comprehensive report this week. (See specific short-term recommendations in the sidebar; read the whole whopping thing at aia.org.)

feat_Bayside5_main
PEPPERMINT PARK A response to grassroots demand.


HERCULEAN EFFORT

Community development requires planners to grapple with existing challenges while being innovative at the same time. What role do Bayside and East Bayside currently serve in Portland, and what roles can they fill moving forward?

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