The Portland City Council voted in December for a six-month moratorium to ban development in the Central Waterfront District.  According to MaineBiz, “The city said in a news release that it made the proposal in response to ‘significant overburdening of parking, traffic control and waterfront resources” in the area concerned.’

Due to existing traffic and parking concerns, in addition to general congestion in the area, their goal is to take this time to further understand and resolve these issues. The pier owners as well as fishermen in the area have been particularly affected by this increased activity with less access to parking and their equipment on the water.

During the moratorium, the city will not accept or process a range of planning and building applications for the Waterfront Central Zone, which runs from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal. That includes new applications and existing applications, unless a substantive review of the latter already has been undertaken. The only exception would be to address immediate public safety threats.” Portland Press Herald

New Zoning Amendment to the Waterfront

Most recently on Friday, January 11th, the city announced its plan to move ahead on a zoning amendment that would block uses such as hotels on the water side of Commercial Street. The waterfront development proposed by David Bateman for Fisherman’s Wharf was under scrutiny as it would have included a 93-room hotel and parking garage with office, retail and restaurant space at 184 Commercial Street (the waterfront side of Commercial Street).

Due to this latest zoning amendment, the project has been dropped as the Bateman’s re-evaluate their project to include more marine use and parking that would help the working fishermen. “Loss of working waterfronts has become an increasing concern throughout coastal Maine in recent years.” MaineBiz

Impact of Development Pause

While it is disappointing to lose some of these developments along the waterfront, such as the Bateman’s project, this was a necessary step in order to meet City requirements in terms of the ratio between commercial and marine related uses.

This move to take a step back and assess the traffic and parking patterns in the Old Port would be beneficial in the long term, not only for those working on the waterfront, but for Tenant’s working in downtown office buildings. Tenants are experiencing a shortage of parking options as well as rising prices which are becoming a bigger factor in companies determining where to lease space.

With even more hotels and developments expected to go up in the East End in the next few years, overall lack of parking and traffic will only become a larger issue over time.  Therefore, addressing the issue now will have a positive impact on future development. The development and growth in Portland have already had a positive impact on the economy with its low unemployment rate (2.4%) and will continue to attract new young workers to the area.