Zoning to cost fishermen millions in infrastructure upgrades

Wharf owners provide 13-page analysis detailing financial losses to city coffers

(Portland, Maine) The City of Portland is considering new zoning regulations that will eliminate several million dollars of future tax and development revenue dedicated exclusively to improving the infrastructure of the city’s working waterfront.

The proposed changes are to the “Non-Marine Use Overlay Zone,” or NMUOZ. The recommendations to the planning board, on which a public hearing has been scheduled at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, will extinguish as much as $3.4 million in future one-time development fees that would go directly to waterfront infrastructure. In addition, as much as $1.2 million in future annual revenues from a dedicated TIF fund (tax increment financing) would also evaporate.

At an April 23rd workshop, planning board member David Eaton pressed city planning staff for hard financial data on what financial losses the zoning changes would impose on taxpayers, fishermen and the working waterfront. In reply planners equivocated, floating the possibility that they would not produce the data before Tuesday’s hearing. William Needleman, Portland’s waterfront coordinator, said he would “see what we can come up with regards to something resembling legitimate numbers. If we cannot come up with numbers that we would consider legitimate, we will report that out as well.”

Today representatives of Long Wharf, Central Wharf (a/k/a Fisherman’s Wharf) and Union Wharf sent a co-signed 3-page letter and a detailed, 13-page fiscal analysis to the chair of the planning board, Sean Dundon, providing the data for which Eaton had asked. The findings delineate “the net difference in terms of lost revenue benefits to the City and working waterfront if the current NMUOZ is reduced as proposed by the current zoning amendment.” Over time, in summary:

  • Total annual real estate tax revenue potential created by new development would be 55.64% less per year. 

  • Total future annual revenue available to fund the Waterfront Capital Improvement Zone (T.I.F. District) would be 65.2% less per year. 

  • Total funds required of new development projects for marine infrastructure investment would be 63.53% less in total.

During the April 23 workshop, several members of the board echoed Eaton’s concerns about lost value, with member Brandon Mazer asking, “Is this a solution looking for a problem?” Eaton was persistent in his objection to the lack of documentation, at one point saying that, “we’re making gestures without any real understanding of what their potential impact might be.”

All planning board members and the fisherman serving on the city’s Waterfront Working Group agree that re-drawing lines in the NMOUZ would create no new additional berthing for use by fishermen.

Ironically, the NMUOZ was created in 2010 to leverage development to directly help Portland’s fishing community, which Eaton noted during the April 23 hearing.

“We’re talking about reducing a lot of value that could be realized from the development of this waterfront which under the old zoning is supposed to benefit the fishing interests in the city,” Eaton said.

“It’s our responsibility as a board and certainly as a council to take that into account.”

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Do you REALLY know what was proposed at Fishermen’s Wharf?

Actually nobody knew —- until today, April 23, 2019.

Well, one minor exception. About a dozen Portland residents knew. They participated in a focus group in December and we told them, to see what they thought. Before the publication of this post today, nobody else knew. No fishermen, no lobstermen, nobody on the Planning Board, no City Councilors, no reporters. The reason for that? We felt strongly that we needed to extend the courtesy of running these ideas by the fishing community first, face to face, before taking the more formal step of going to the Planning Board. A meeting with representatives of the fishing community hasn’t happened yet.

We voluntarily withdrew our proposal in January as the City formed a Waterfront Working Group, to allow that committee to do its work. Tonight, the Planning Board is considering more restrictive zoning along the waterfront. As the Board considers reducing the value of commercial properties, and thus reducing the tax revenue generated to help pay for the upkeep of the working waterfront’s infrastructure, now seems like an appropriate time to outline what we had been thinking. If for no other reason than ideas like this --- in general ---  should be part of the discussion as the community plans the future of the working waterfront.

Collaboration

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We had hoped to help Maine fishermen capitalize upon Portland’s worldwide reputation as a “foodie” destination. The project we wanted to build would have encouraged collaboration among all working waterfront organizations, particularly among fishermen and restaurants, to transform Portland’s working waterfront into a “must-see” destination not only for Maine people, but also for children, tourists, chefs and journalists all over the world. Here are the benefits of the project we wanted to build, in more detail:

For Fishermen, hard physical benefits

  • Approximately $2 million for dedicated infrastructure upgrades to the working waterfront, including commercial floats, gangways, pilings, etc.

  • 7-9 free parking spaces.

  • Wider lane from Commercial Street to Widgery Wharf, so that fishermen, bait trucks, etc. could access the wharf more easily.

  • Private waterfront land between Widgery Wharf & Chandler’s Wharf upgraded for use by fishermen, a viewing spot at the working waterfront so visitors could see what Maine fishermen and lobstermen do.

  • The extension of services like electricity and water down to Widgery Wharf for use by the fishermen, services that do not exist now.

  • A substantial financial contribution to a comprehensive, solutions-focused traffic study to improve conditions on Commercial Street.

 For Fishermen, cooperative marketing assistance

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  • New “Maine Sustainable Seafood Center” that would have included:

  • Some processing of seafood landed by local fishermen.  

  • Some sales of seafood landed by local fishermen.

  • A “Coastal Culinary Academy” and “R&D Kitchen” for culinary research & development focused on fresh Maine seafood. 

  • Direct & personalized promotion of Maine fishermen, their boats and their products to customers around the world.

  • Direct personal access for visitors --- including schoolchildren --- to fishermen, boats, traps, nets and all aspects of the working wharves.

  • “Maine Sustainable Seafood Raw Bar,” a restaurant serving innovative and traditional Maine seafood dishes, tracing each bite to Maine farmers and fishermen.

  • We had hoped to work with our neighbors to establish an open-air fresh seafood and working waterfront market, in kiosks or under tents along on a Portland wharf.

  • “International Maine Seafood Chef of the Year” contest, among others.

  • “Maine Fisherman Hall of Fame” featuring storytelling, curated photographs, artifacts, etc.

  • In summary, encourage collaboration among all working waterfront organizations to transform the waterfront into “must-see” destination for children, tourists, chefs and journalists all over the world.

For Tourists & Public

  • New Marine Dispatch Center, central location and waiting area protected from the elements for all waiting for marine transportation out onto Casco Bay.

  • Indoor bathrooms for tour boat and water taxi customers, instead of the status quo: porta-potties sitting in the hot sun.

  • Private land converted to upgraded “public access point,” a new and prime viewing spot at the working waterfront.

  • New 12,400 sq. ft. boardwalk & park along Fisherman’s Wharf, getting pedestrians off Commercial Street, allowing visitors to get right to water’s edge.

For Portland Taxpayers

  • Increase in tax revenue from $28,000 annually that the Fisherman’s Wharf parking lot now generates, to an annual amount exponentially larger than that, after project competition.

  • Another property generating robust funds for a TIF fund dedicated to current maintenance needs and future improvements to the infrastructure serving Portland’s working waterfront.

Just to be clear and avoid any confusion, the hotel proposal is withdrawn. The Planning Board is meeting this afternoon, Tuesday April 23rd, in the City Council chambers at 4:30 p.m. The zoning revisions are expected to face a Planning Board hearing and recommendation on May 14. A non-binding recommendation would be forwarded to the City Council, which needs to approve the zoning revisions. A first reading could be held May 20, with a public hearing and vote June 3. A 180-day moratorium on development within the Waterfront Central Zone expires June 15.

Cambria Hotels' first Maine location will be Shipyard's 'brewtel'

BY STAFF (Click HERE for direct link to Mainebiz article.)

Choice Hotels International Inc. (NYSE: CHH) has inked an agreement with Koucar Management to develop a new Cambria hotel in Portland that's slated to open in 2021.

It will be a beer-themed "brewtel" involving Shipyard Brewing Co. and will be Cambria's first hotel in Maine.

Located at 86 Newbury St., on the booming East End of Portland, the 102-room hotel is part of a package of four Cambria hotels in strategic markets that Koucar will deliver in the next year or two, according to a news release.

"Cambria's unique value proposition and overall performance is leading more and more developers to commit to multiple projects, further accelerating the brand's growth in prime locations across the United States," said Mark Shalala, vice president of franchise development and upscale brands for Choice Hotels.

It will be adjacent to the new headquarters for Covetrus (NASDAQ: CVET) and a block from the new headquarters of WEX Inc. (NYSE: WEX). It is also in a key market for leisure travelers, near the Old Port. 

Shalala said Portland is "one of the top revenue-per-available-room markets in the country, thanks in part to record tourism."

Based in Michigan, Koucar Management is one of the largest private real estate developers in the Midwest and has over 25 years of experience in commercial, residential, and hotel development and management.

There are more than 40 Cambria Hotels across the U.S. in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans and Washington D.C. Cambria Hotels will be entering more markets this year, including Boston, Houston and, in California, Anaheim and the Napa Valley.

COURTESY / CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL INC.  A rendering of the planned Cambria Hotel in Portland, slated to open in 2021. It will be a beer-themed “brewtel” involving Shipyard Brewing Co.

COURTESY / CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL INC.

A rendering of the planned Cambria Hotel in Portland, slated to open in 2021. It will be a beer-themed “brewtel” involving Shipyard Brewing Co.

Waterfront challenge requires investment of serious thought

It’s all about finding balance, and legacy --- honoring Portland’s rich maritime history. That’s what’s going on right now with a new task force organized by the City, and they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Bateman Partners has been invested in a truly working waterfront, and a better Casco Bay, for decades. (Here’s one example.) We know many of the players, and as we’ve made our own contributions, we’ve certainly been well aware that the waterfront is an emotional issue. Everybody has an opinion.

If you support keeping Portland’s working waterfront vibrant and healthy, just reading the headlines won’t provide you with the deeper, comprehensive understanding you may want. Therefore, we would like to call your attention to the fact that in addition to reading the Portland Press Herald and The Forecaster, you can take a much deeper dive thanks to another source.

The City of Portland has established a Waterfront Working Group (WWG). It consists of several lobstermen and fishermen, several pier owners, and other citizens who have contributed decades of volunteer time to improving the City. The WWG is now meeting every Thursday from 3PM to 5PM, in Room 24 at Portland City Hall. A wealth of documentation is being housed at this link. Scroll down the page to “Related Documents.” You’ll find detailed meeting notes, lots of history, and comprehensive reports supplied by City staff. This list is updated regularly.

The issue of proper balance is perhaps the most difficult that the WWG faces. Wharf maintenance, pilings, parking, gangways, dredging and a lot more are all part of the infrastructure needed to support fishermen and all the other established maritime uses that give Portland its traditional color. But how to pay for all of this upkeep? It’s not as simple as it seems. As one example, a recent article in The Forecaster accurately reported that the WWG has placed its highest priority on spending as much as $600,000 in local TIF revenues on dredging. What the article did not report, probably due to space limitations, is that dredging of Portland Harbor could cost as much as $30 million. That’s according to a City officials in the notes from one of the WWG meetings.

Wow. That’s a lot of money, and finding huge dollars like that to keep subsidizing fishing operations, and to make sure fishermen remain an integral part of downtown Portland, will be a huge challenge. The revenue must come from somewhere, but we think there are many creative ways to get it done. If you’d like to keep up with that discussion, just go to the City’s link periodically for the newly-posted material. Also, the WWG meetings are open to the public if you’d like to attend.

Bateman pledges to work with fishermen to shape waterfront project

(Portland, Maine) Bateman Partners, LLC announced this morning that a $40 million mixed-use development project on Fisherman’s Wharf, designed to honor and promote Portland’s Working Waterfront, is now entering a further planning stage.

Since its introduction to the planning board in April, the concept has evolved significantly, but the changes have yet to be made public. A company official said more time is necessary to reach fishermen and the public, to explain how the project will help solve key issues that have been attracting a lot of media attention. 

“We have invited the fishermen to help shape our project,” said David Bateman, president of Bateman Partners. “Together we can implement practical solutions to infrastructure challenges, access problems and parking issues that now face the waterfront and the fishing community. Our proposal has changed drastically, to help solve these problems and highlight how important fishermen are to Commercial Street and the working waterfront.

“The fishermen will be the first to see these ideas, but only when they’re ready. I want to make it clear that we are not rushing or pressuring anybody. We want to meet on their terms, and they’ll let us know when they’re ready. We’ll get there. Good, community-based development takes time,” Bateman said.

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Portland, Maine working waterfront

More than a quarter billion of high quality value

Construction starts soon!

Construction starts soon!

We’ve been very busy building new taxable value in Maine cities and towns, and now comes this news --- the largest building in the last 25 years on Portland’s peninsula has been approved by the Portland planning board. It’s a 170,000 square foot facility that will serve as national headquarters for Vets First Choice, a company formed in 2010 that is now one of the country’s fastest-growing provider of pharmacy services for animal care. We are developing this facility on Mountfort Street, along with our partners AlliedCook Construction, architect David Lloyd and CBRE/The Boulos Co.

We absolutely must give a special tip of the cap to the planning board, and especially to Lucas Anthony with Gorrill Palmer, the civil engineers on the project who prepared this extremely complex proposal for planning board review. This is by far one of the largest mixed-use real estate projects to be built in Portland, Maine for several decades. The level of detail and professionalism those folks brought to the preparation and review process is impossible to over-state. No doubt the taxpayers of Portland are very pleased that such distinguished expertise is helping to grow the tax base in Maine’s largest city. 

We expect to add more than 1,000 new high-quality jobs in southern Maine and believe this downtown location will be critical towards attracting world class talent.
— Benjamin Shaw, co-founder & CEO, Vets First Choice

We expect construction to start soon. A pharmacy and fulfillment center should be finished by October of next year, then office space, labs and other commercial space should be ready by the end of April, 2020. As a result of this project, Vets First Choice expects to be able to create hundreds of new professional jobs for Maine residents.

If you are just learning about Bateman Partners, we welcome you to our new web site. Since 1979 our partners are responsible for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in high quality development projects, in Maine and New Hampshire. Here’s a list if you’d like to take a look.

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