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Council approves easing height restrictions in parts of Bayside

A proposed development that will add market rate housing, retail space and parking in Bayside is just the type of development the city has wanted to see in that neighborhood, according to the City Council, and led to the approval of a zoning amendment that will ease the height limitations for buildings along Somerset and Franklin streets.
The council unanimously approved a series of zoning amendments that will ease the height limitations for buildings in Bayside and help further a new mixed use development on Somerset Street. The proposed amendment will allow for buildings on a parcel that runs from Somerset Street to Marginal Way and another series of lots abutting Franklin Street to have 125-foot tall structures, with the possibility of going up to 165 feet.
The request to amend the zoning code was made by the developers of the Federated Companies' Midtown project.
"This is transformative," said Greg Shinberg, who was representing Federated companies. He said the project will benefit the whole city since Portland needs housing, mixed use buildings and density.
"This is the project we've been waiting for," said Councilor Kevin Donoghue. Many other proposals for that site have come and gone, he said, and the Federated project is by far the best.
Donoghue said the Midtown project satisfies many of the priorities outlined in the "New Vision for Bayside" study that was completed in 2000. He said it creates a critical mass of market-rate housing that's needed in the city and take pressure off the existing housing market.
Councilor David Marshall said the project is the "most exciting development proposal that I've seen," and that's primarily due to the housing units. He said the creation of the market-rate units will help balance out the number of affordable housing units that have been built in the city during the past decade.
"I think that this is a strong project," he said.
The Planning Board endorsed the easing of the height limitations in March by a 4-1 vote.
The proposed site for the Midtown project sits in a district that allows a maximum building height of 105 feet and would be too limiting to meet the required density to make the project feasible, developers said.
The Midtown project — which was formerly known as the Maritime Landing project — is being proposed for a former scrap yard on Somerset Street. The development will include 675 market rate apartments in four residential buildings, retail space and two parking structures.
Along with the height limit change, the council passed a series of other amendments that would mitigate the impact of a building that's built beyond the 125-foot limit. The revised conditional use amendments will require that buildings that are designed to go up to the maximum allowed height must preserve view corridors, comply with design standards, have additional step backs in the design and provide some sort of open space.
While many neighbors of the proposed development voiced concerns about easing the height restrictions for the Midtown project was reviewed by the Planning Board, both residents and business owners turned out Monday to support the proposal.
Tom Manning, owner of the Miss Portland Diner, said the Federated project addresses all the issues that were addressed in the "New Vision for Bayside" because it redevelops the scrap yard, creates housing and moves away from the reliance on surface parking in the neighborhood.
In addition to relaxing the height requirements, the council previously approved a series of grants and loans to subsidize the construction of one of the development's parking structures.
Last September, the City Council approved agreed to give the developers $9 million in grants and loans to pay for the construction of a 700-space parking garage. A portion of the spaces will be available for public use.
The grant funds will come out a $12 million program developed in 2008 and 2009 with the U.S. Department of Housing and urban Development that would provide $10.2 million in loan assistance and $1.8 million in grant assistance, according to a staff memo.
The city estimates that the property tax received through the phase one development is expected to cover the cost of the loan.

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