Which Portland Neighborhood Did a California Research Team Envision as a Green Tourism Hotspot?

By Koenig, Seth | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), December 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Which Portland Neighborhood Did a California Research Team Envision as a Green Tourism Hotspot?


Koenig, Seth, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


PORTLAND, Maine -- A team of university researchers from California wrapped up a weeklong intensive study and report on Portland's India Street neighborhood Monday, telling area residents it could be revitalized as an internationally known "ecodistrict."

Professor Stephen Wheeler of University of California, Davis, and three of his students told a small audience of neighborhood stakeholders their section of the city should be home to a landmark complex run almost exclusively by on-site renewable energy, as well as frequent pocket parks and rooftop gardens that could make the spot a green tourism destination.

"Sustainable neighborhoods," Wheeler said. "To see the total package is rare, and we'd love to see India Street pioneer that for Maine, the East Coast."

The India Street neighborhood has become a focus for Portland planners over the past year as development interest in the area picked up. Residents have partnered with city officials to work on a vision for the neighborhood that will be used as guidelines during what many see as a looming wave of new projects.

Already in recent years, part of the former Jordan's Meats factory property was converted into a mixed-use Hampton Inn-based development, and 94 luxury condominiums in the Bay House project on nearby Middle Street are due to become ready for occupancy this month.

That activity follows a since-scuttled proposal by billionaire hedge fund investor S. Donald Sussman to construct an ambitious six- story condominium complex abutting Franklin Street.

Over the past year, city and neighborhood leaders have sought to get out in front of the development boom as it picks up more momentum, first convincing the Sustain Southern Maine coalition to use a portion of its recently awarded $1.6 million in federal grant money to conduct a pilot study of the area, then applying to take part in Portland (Ore.) State University's prestigious Urban Sustainability Accelerator program.

As part of the latter program, the Oregon-based university commissioned Wheeler's team to visit for a weeklong intensive review and make a slate of recommendations to help guide the neighborhood's development future. In January, a retail and market specialist will be sent by the program to study what types of storefronts and businesses could thrive in the area.

The city created an India Street Neighborhood Advisory Committee last month to consider the consultants' suggestions and devise a series of recommendations on policies and ordinance changes for the City Council to consider for the area.

"The relaunch of a planning effort for this urban district holds much promise to build on its unique assets and to learn more from its context," said City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, who also serves as the advisory committee co-chairman, in a statement. "What we have before us is a tremendous opportunity to enhance its historic charm and to develop strategies to ensure it becomes an inclusive and sustainable neighborhood for our city. …

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