Portland, Maine, City Hall. East Bayside is just across the Franklin Artilary- within a ten minute walking distance of City Hall.The EPA grant will connect downtown Portland more with East Bayside. Photo by Ramona du Houx
By Ramona du Houx
The Greater Portland Council of Governments has been selected as one of 20 recipients in the nation for a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning (AWP) Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The selected grantees have demonstrated a strong vision and partnership to catalyze brownfield redevelopment as a pathway to transform their communities into vibrant destinations for housing, manufacturing, and transit-oriented development,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
AWP funds will be used to develop an area-wide plan for the East Bayside neighborhood in Portland. The planning process will take place over a two-year period beginning in May of 2015.
“We’re very excited to have been chosen for this funding, which will allow us to put in place a community vision for the future of the East Bayside neighborhood,” said Mayor Michael Brennan. “Building upon the many successful light industrial uses, the plan will explore how to best develop these brownfields sites and the rest of East Bayside in order to enhance a thriving mixed-use district.”
For over a century, East Bayside functioned as an industrial district served first by ship, then railroad, and now truck. While it remains one of the poorest Census Tracts in the state, this industrial legacy has recently attracted a vibrant culture of new Mainers, artists, and food entrepreneurs who will be critical in creating a lasting vision and plan for the neighborhood. In short, East Bayside has grown its creative economy from the grass roots up and is now ready for the next stage of redevelopment.
"Given that much of East Bayside was built on contaminated fill, almost any redevelopment will trigger environmental due diligence that can be supported through the Brownfields program,” said Neal Allen, Executive Director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments. “We are pleased to collaborate with the City of Portland and the neighborhood to facilitate re-uses that increase economic opportunity and strengthen the community and neighborhood, including housing, arts, culture, and food enterprise.”
The grant will fund a range of planning activities, including the following:
- Inventory of neighborhood Brownfields sites
- Interviews and roundtables with residents, property owners, business and community leaders
- Neighborhood open house
- Charrettes at three neighborhood locations
- Public forums to prioritize results
- Action teams to develop recommendations
The planning process will leverage over $45 million in public and private investment already planned for East Bayside over the next two years, including housing, infrastructure, and capital projects.
Eleven businesses, organizations, and agencies have already signed on to participate in the project:
- East Bayside Neighborhood Organization,
- Portland Housing Authority,
- Avesta Housing, Redfern Properties,
- Coffee by Design,
- Urban Farm Fermentory,
- Running with Scissors,
- Root Cellar,
- East Bayside Studios,
- Ten Ten Pie,
- Sustain Southern Maine
The planning process will build on the work of several recent efforts, including the India Street Sustainable Neighborhood Plan, Franklin Street Redesign, USM’s East Bayside Neighborhood Planning Study in 2009, and the American Institute of Architect’s Sustainable Design Assessment Team in 2010.
It also builds on Greater Portland’s designation as one of the nation’s 12 Manufacturing Communities under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration as well as the Livable Communities Partnership sponsored by Sustain Southern Maine under a 2010 Planning Grant from HUD-EPA-DOT Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC). The leadership of GPCOG and the City in implementing both of those efforts gave the AWP application a stronger proposal to compete in a crowded national field of applicants.
Both the IMCP and the PSC seek to leverage and build upon the resources already in the communities and the AWP grants will complement these targeted efforts. Building on federal partnership efforts, DOT has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform subsequent transportation projects in the DOT’s TIGER grant selection process. Not only will this new grant award ensure a robust approach to brownfields reuse, it may also assist the community in securing additional resources to implement the plan.