"We're looking very holistically at how we can make this area attractive to creative businesspeople and also involve them more in the community," Endy says. And, as is so important in an area with a large immigrant community — one that can often feel detached from decision-making around it — "We've made a tremendous effort to get local residents involved." He cites the new Peppermint Park — between Smith, Cumberland, and Congress — as a local answer to "pure grassroots demand" from people who live in the neighborhood. Endy also refers to the "Herculean effort" EBNO made to get locals involved in the AIA assessment.
To that end, there was "fantastic turnout" at the International Dinner & Community Conversation, held at the end of March to facilitate the AIA's work with the community, says Erin Simmons of the AIA's Center for Communities by Design. More than 100 local residents, many originally from other countries, attended the dinner, which was billed as more of an international potluck than a boring community meeting.
Perhaps attendees realize, as Holt wrote in his update to the AIA's Maine chapter this month: "[T]his neighborhood is the most urban in the state, and despite obstacles and setback over the years, is now poised to enter an era of revitalization and rebirth."
The American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team released its report on Portland's East Bayside neighborhood this week. Team leaders, who are based in Washington, DC, came for a meeting in February (they got the full picture — they got snowed in) and with a bigger group in March. The resulting report, created with significant input from local stakeholders, contains recommendations both short- and long-term, both expensive and cheap, both conceptual and concrete. It focuses on creating a sustainable community, one that "typically has a balanced mix of uses, making it possible for people to live, work and play within a walking or cycling distance." Here are some specific suggestions/highlights:
• "Consider shared parking so each individual business does not have to provide on-site parking."
• "Consider allowing commercial ground-floor uses in existing buildings on Cumberland Avenue, so that Congress and Cumberland can function as a single mixed-use district. This will enable the area to evolve with a different character from Washington Avenue," which is retail-based.
• "Consider whether Anderson Street might evolve as a low-key mixed industrial/arts/support retail street with access mostly on foot and bicycle, where [neighborhood] residents and workers would come for their day-to-day need from coffee and lunch to car repair."
• Install "a marked crosswalk [across Franklin Arterial] aligned with the informal path at Oxford Street . . . either a full pedestrian signal or a beacon such as the HAWK [a signal with a pedestrian-activated button]."
Deirdre Fulton can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.