Canal Plaza Tower | Portland

Cosakita18

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Moving this discussion from "New construction continued" the article mentions that Soley / East Brown Cow submitted a zoning application. Can anyone find this on the city website or self service portal?

 
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Cosakita18

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I know these are preliminary / concept drawings, but i'm not huge on the design. Something about it makes it look like a 1960's urban renewal tower in my eyes. I think it's the 45-degree angled corners and the striping along the brick cladding.
 

Max

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Somehow I was under the impression that the proposed tower was going to be over on the Union Street side of the plaza, just behind/uphill from the Hyatt, and would replace or be built in top of whatever's in that fenced in area. It looks like electric or mechanical stuff in there.

I just went on Google Earth to look at the spot where he's proposing this tower -- it's tight! I mean it looks like 60ft. x 60ft.
 

Portlander

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There are numerous "skinny" skyscrapers being built or already completed in New York that have similar or even smaller footprints that exceed 60 floors.
 

Cosakita18

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Aside from some of the issues with the site and the design of the building, I'm cautiously optimistic. If anyone can get a tall building built in the city, it's Tim Soley / East Brown Cow. He has the political and economic capital to make this happen. And I'm virtually positive that he's spent a considerable amount of time behind closed doors with planning staff to make sure that this is zoning change isn't a waste of time.
 

markhb

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The most-recent plan idea for height in Portland was to allow the greatest heights along Congress St. at the height of the peninsula, and step down as you went towards the water on either side, and to allow additional height if you stepped back from Congress as you went up (to keep Congress from becoming a total canyon). The allowances are even still marked on the zoning map; the problem is that the Historic District on Congress largely negates any opportunity to redevelop that stretch.
 

Cosakita18

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As pointed out by Cneil on Twitter. The application for this project shows that the developers are working with the globally illustrious Safdie Architects. If true, that would put an incredible amount of muscle and legitimacy behind the project.
 

Hubman

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Does anyone think this looks a little too much like the Winston Towers in Arlington?
 

Cosakita18

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Does anyone think this looks a little too much like the Winston Towers in Arlington?
After looking at the PPH article a little more, I have a suspicion and those illustrations from the article are quite old, and that the design of this new tower is going to be substantially different. It's very uncommon for modern projects to use illustrations like that instead of renderings.
 

PWMFlyer

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Peter Munro is alive and well according to this article in Portland..
The tallest building in the state could be built in Portland’s Old Port if city councilors approve a proposal to allow developers to build beyond height limits if they create public spaces at ground level.
Tim Soley of East Brown Cow Management, which owns 14 properties in the city, submitted the zoning amendment request Dec. 11, 2019, that would award height bonuses resulting in buildings of up to 299 feet in exchange for open space that would be accessible to the public and preserved through public access easements held by the city.
The property Tim Soley hopes to develop under a requested zoning rule change is currently a parking lot behind Canal Plaza. (Portland Phoenix/Jordan Bailey)
The tallest building in the state is listed in a 2018 Business Insider article as Agora Grand Event Center in Lewiston, formerly St. Patrick’s Church, whose spire reaches 220 feet. Not including buildings with spires, the tallest building in the state is Franklin Towers on Cumberland Avenue, at 175 feet.
A group called Keep Portland Livable is not convinced the Old Port is a good place for such a tall building, regardless of how much public space is created. Portland residents Tim Paradis and Paul Munro, in a statement submitted to the Phoenix, said such a building would “disfigure the human scale and architectural cohesion that has made this historic district the crown jewel in Portland’s renaissance.”
It would shadow the surrounding streets and increase wind, they said, especially around the building’s base, making the proposed public area “windswept, cold and uninviting.”
In addition, Munro and Paradis said, “It would damage Portland’s brand, the very reason that visitors and new residents – from places like Boston and Brooklyn – are flocking to our city to escape what their home cities have become.”
They argue that taller buildings make sense on the ridge of downtown along Congress Street (where 210-foot buildings are allowed, according to the city’s height overlay maps) “helping to form a Portland skyline and funneling winds up and over the streets below – and around the gateways to downtown.”
The property Soley would like to develop is tucked into a nook in the boundary of the Old Port Historic District, behind buildings on Exchange Street with 65-foot height limits. A
An aerial view of the the Canal Plaza block shows current pedestrian pathways through the block, and the footprint of a building that would be proposed if zoning revisions are approved. (Courtesy Woodard & Curran)
portion of the property is in the historic district, according to city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.
When asked about the impacts of a 299-foot building in the Old Port, Professor Yuseung Kim, who teaches in the graduate program of policy, planning and management at the University of Southern Maine Muskie School of Public Service, said he supports increasing density in the city, even if it’s next to a historic district.
“Portland needs more density, and needs to reduce empty spaces (a.k.a. parking lots) for all the well-known reasons: walkability, affordability, safety, preservation, connectedness,” Kim said. “To minimize negative impacts on the historic district, and to promote visually pleasing cityscape, the new building shape, material, color, entrance should be carefully decided.”
Grondin said properties within 100 feet of historic districts receive an advisory review from Historic Preservation program staff, so there will be an opportunity for preservation comments at the site plan review stage for any development proposed for that property. She said she said she is sure attention would be given to the contrasting heights.
Forgotten history
Historically, the inner part of the block was much more active, with the former Plum Street bisecting it north to south.
In her blog “Strange Maine” Michelle Souliere wrote that crossing the parking lot site, “you will be stepping into the atmosphere that once alighted over the well-trodden sidewalks of Plum Street … between the antiquated footprints of two of Portland’s grandest Victorian hotels.”
Across from each other at the two corners of Plum and Middle streets stood the elegant Falmouth and St. Julian (later St. Regis) hotels, built in 1868. But by the 1960s the once-bustling area had deteriorated because of the shifting economic realities in downtown Portland.
Canal Bank, in the Middle Street building now housing Urban Outfitters, bought the St. Regis hotel next door, and by 1972 the hotel and the length of Plum Street were demolished, “leaving nought but the ghosts of these swinging and intricate places,” Souliere wrote.
According to an 1876 “Bird’s Eye View” map of the Portland peninsula by Joseph Warner, south of the St. Julian hotel on Plum Street, in what appears to be the site Soley hopes to develop, was a building that Warner labeled as Portland Suspender Company Works.
Soley has been working to revitalize the area and restore pedestrian uses of Canal Plaza since purchasing the block in 2009. He recently added a small, free-standing, glass-enclosed structure that houses the Copper Branch restaurant, and has expressed a desire to increase retail uses on the ground floors of adjoining properties.
Pedestrians can cut through the block either by walking from Fore Street up Patton Court, a narrow dead end next to the parking garage, or from Exchange Street through a gap in the buildings next to Abacus Gallery, then across the Key Bank parking lot and up a broad staircase to Canal Plaza and out to Spring Street.
Illustrations in a project vision statement by Safdie Architects accompanying the zoning change application shows the site of the parking lot containing a building of unspecified height surrounded by sidewalks, benches and trees, and described as an “intimately-scaled public plaza.”
In addition, the building footprint is lifted, with the plaza extending underneath the upper floors, which are supported by columns to a glass-enclosed cafe.
Councilors weigh in
City Councilor Kimberly Cook said the concept of awarding height bonuses in exchange for public access is a policy that should be considered in several zones.
However, she said that because the city is in the process of completely rewriting its Zoning Code, she does not believe the B-3 zone should “jump ahead of all other zones and receive a partial rewrite at the request of one developer.” She said doing so would undermine the critical work of aligning the city’s zoning with its sustainability and housing priorities.
Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said he would wait until the proposal comes to the City Council before commenting on it specifically, but that he is open to the discussion of increasing heights in just the downtown area, especially for workforce and affordable housing.
Soley’s zoning amendment request does not introduce any new housing requirements.
Grondin, the city spokeswoman, said that while increasing heights is one potential growth incentive, Portland would not necessarily seek to apply increased heights uniformly.
“With any proposal for a change from a property owner, we’d look at the context and other city policy goals that are supported, or not supported, by the change,” she said.
The public will have the opportunity to comment on the zoning amendment when it goes before the Planning Board. That discussion has not yet been scheduled.
When increasing height limits for individual projects was brought up in the past, it was met with strong opposition from residents. In one recent example, Keeping Portland Livable filed a lawsuit against developers of a project that would have brought 165-foot apartment towers to Bayside; in response, Florida-based developer Federated Cos. reduced the proposed building to four stories.
That project ultimately stalled amid a dueling breach-of-contract lawsuit between the city and developer.
Keep Portland Livable contends Soley stands to profit at a cost to taxpayers.
“With easy bank financing based on historically low interest rates, East Brown Cow Management will likely do nicely,” Munro and Paradis said. “But Portland’s businesses and taxpayers will pay the price of disruption and the cost of infrastructure in a delicate neighborhood of boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops likely to be overwhelmed by a behemoth of a building.”
But East Brown Cow argues that the increased value would ultimately benefit Portland. It states in another document submitted with the application that “through increased building heights, the city will realize increased valuation per square foot of land area over shorter buildings of similar quality,” helping achieve the city’s goal of becoming sustainable and bringing down the long-term cost of public infrastructure operations, maintenance, and repairs when compared to sprawled communities.
No particular use was indicated for the building described in the project vision statement. East Brown Cow spokeswoman Jessica James said the developer is not revealing anything more than was submitted about its vision for the project at this time.
But a lavish top floor is described as “featuring an airy lounge and restaurant with vaulted wood ceilings, generous floor-to-ceiling windows with 360 degree views … of Casco Bay, the White Mountains and beyond.”
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Almost forgot about this from last Spring's MEREDA report, which shows a similar design to the building as shown above from the PPH article:

Capture.PNG
 

Seanflynn78

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Anything on the peninsula should be fair game if it is next to old Port. I really like the rendering.
 

Portlander

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The footprint of the building is smaller than I had envisioned. I wish Tim Soley the best in the upcoming difficult process and hope it eventually gets built. Wonder if he has a minimum floor count that he would accept to move the project forward and keep it financially feasible, Im guessing 18 stories @ 200 feet.
 

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