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Old 06-26-2007, 01:33 PM   #1
cneal
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Thompson's Point, Portland

The owners of Thompson's Point (behind the train and bus station in Libbytown) are looking for a developer to turn the site into a mixed-use, transit-oriented development:

http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/st...16953&ac=PHbiz


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Old 06-26-2007, 02:55 PM   #2
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I read this article today and have commented as well. a good idea. But I dont like the rendering. Why does everything--even development not near historic parts of the city--have to be brick? and what about height?

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Old 06-27-2007, 09:21 AM   #3
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I wanted to post this article before the pressherald takes it down:

Quote:
Thompson's Point: A site to behold

The 30-acre property on the Fore River is on the market for $12 million, and local Realtors say it is a prime location for development.

Dumpsters and storage containers that now line a potholed gravel parking lot soon could be replaced by upscale office buildings, a parking garage and maybe a hotel. Rows of tractor-trailers behind a chain-link fence could give way to luxury housing facing the Fore River salt marshes, within walking distance of a new bus and train station.

These are images of Thompson's Point today and, perhaps, a few years from now.

For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, Thompson's Point is for sale. The asking price is $12 million.

The real estate company listing it says the 30-acre property is the largest available development site in the city of Portland. It's also among the most visible, passed by thousands of motorists every day on Interstate 295.

The out-of-state owner appreciates the importance of the high-profile location, according to Alan Fishman, principal at the Fishman Realty Group in Portland. He wants the property marketed selectively to developers who have a progressive vision of a mixed-use, waterfront neighborhood that will serve as a gateway into the city.

"He's not just going to sell it to any developer," Fishman said. "He wants to see something significant happen that will be good for the area."

Despite its industrial character, Thompson's Point doesn't have any outstanding environmental cleanup issues, according to Fishman, and it is zoned for mixed uses. Fishman's company is promoting the site as a perfect place for so-called new urbanism design principles -- clusters of homes, offices, restaurants and retail services stitched together by walking trails and a master plan.

This won't be the first time big ideas have been considered for Thompson's Point. In 1986, the owners proposed 500 units of waterfront housing and a marina. City planners killed the proposal, concerned with traffic, airport noise, zoning and the overall scale of the project.

The reaction could be different in 2007.

"Gateway is the word I'd use, too," said Lee Urban, the city planning and development director. "It would be an incredible plus for the city if this kind of development can happen."

The city's view of Thompson's Point may have evolved, in part because the area around the site has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

Residents and travelers may see Thompson's Point stuck in time, a rough-edged, industrial collection of old brick and metal buildings. But the point's history -- recent and long ago -- suggests that a transformation is overdue.

HISTORY OF THE POINT

Thompson's Point first emerged as a business center as part of the towpath adjacent to the Cumberland and Oxford Canal. Built in the 1820s, the canal was a main route of commerce between Portland and the Lakes Region. The point was a hub of activity when canal boats and barges turned around in the adjacent basin.

Rail transportation made the canal obsolete, but rail access to the point prompted Maine Central Railroad to build two car-repair buildings around 1890. The federal government took control of the large brick buildings for the war effort during World War II. Farther out on the point, Maine Cement Products built a cinder block plant in the 1950s.

The point came into modern ownership in 1984, when three Boston real estate developers bought it. The $25 million housing project they proposed in 1986 was greeted skeptically by city planners, and it later died. Subsequent ideas, such as a biotechnology park, never got off the ground.

In the interim, the railroad and cement plant buildings took on other missions. Today the point is occupied by nearly two dozen small businesses, including companies involved with carpentry, electrical services, building restoration, waste disposal, metal fabrication and distribution. On a weekday morning, the site pulsates with truck and car traffic as deliveries arrive and workers come and go.

It's a busy place, but Thompson's Point isn't being used to its highest potential.

Until recently, the area could be accessed only through city streets. Now it's connected to the Interstate by a new exit ramp.

That ramp leads directly to the city's transportation center for regional buses and Amtrak trains. The center has become so popular, there's hardly room to park.

Immediately upriver, Mercy Hospital's new campus is taking shape on 52 acres. Gone are piles of metal and glass destined for recycling. In their place is a scenic walking trail that winds two miles along the Fore River, under the Interstate and around Thompson's Point.

Circumstances also have changed for the owner, Thompson's Point Inc. Formerly controlled by three partners, the corporation now has one owner, Peter Van Wyck. Now retired from business, Van Wyck wants to see the property sold and turned into a landmark development.

TIMING IS KEY

A concept plan prepared for buyers by Fishman Realty Group suggests how the site could accommodate luxury housing, a new transit center for buses and trains, offices, a marina and a parking garage. All this would be ringed by a tree-lined walking path along the water, part of the expanding Portland Trails network.

This concept faces some potential obstacles. Among them: pulling together all the transportation companies and perhaps negotiating a relocation plan with a propane distribution company that operates from a site it owns at the top of the point.

Despite these and other challenges, commercial real estate agents see the potential.

"I think it's one of the best development sites in the area," said Tony McDonald, who works with major mixed-use projects at CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Co.

The site has 25 acres of developable land and just under five acres of wetlands. The asking price, roughly $500,000 an acre, seems in line with market rates, McDonald said. The site's visibility, road access and water frontage add to its value. The challenge, he said, is finding a buyer who has an appropriate use for such a large parcel of land.

Urban, the city's planning official, wonders about the demand for large-scale hotel and condo development. The downturn in the market has led current developers to scale back or stop some proposed projects, he noted. So beyond location, timing will be a critical factor in what happens next at Thompson's Point.

'BEST OF BOTH WORLDS'

It's hard to gauge timing right now. Fishman Realty Group has been quietly marketing the site to potential buyers for months but hasn't mounted a full-scale advertising campaign. There's some interest, Fishman said, but the details are confidential.

Any buyer will have to see beyond the industrial clutter that defines the site now. That wasn't so difficult walking the property with Fishman on a sunny day last week.

Along the northwest shoreline, Portland Trails has broadcast wildflowers and created a bench from an old boat hull on a bluff above the salt marsh. Across the water is a wooded peninsula. Noise from the highway seems far off.

This scenic overlook is bounded now by a chain-link fence and tractor-trailers, but Fishman can picture houses set back to take advantage of the seclusion.

"You're downtown, but you can hear the birds," he said. "It's the best of both worlds."

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Old 04-27-2011, 07:14 PM   #4
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

This was just posted on the Press Herald, sounds promising.

$100M complex proposed for Thompson's Point
By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

http://www.pressherald.com/news/main...forefront.html


Quote:
PORTLAND ? Two of the principal owners of the Maine Red Claws basketball team are rolling out plans for a $100 million hotel-convention center-office development on Thompson's Point.

Jon Jennings and William J. Ryan Jr. told The Portland Press Herald that the development would be privately funded, although they may seek a property tax break from the city.

They plan to formally unveil the project tomorrow.

A key piece of the project, to be called The Forefront, would be a 48,000-square-foot convention center that would also be a 3,500-seat arena for the Red Claws. It would be attached to a hotel on one side and a music hall on the other that would seat between 1,000 and 2,000 people, Ryan and Jennings said.

....

Ryan said most of the investors have been lined up, led by his father, William Ryan Sr., the former head of TD Bank in Portland, and Chris Thompson, a hotel developer in Maine and New Hampshire. Jennings said they have discussed the project with banks and haven't formally approached any, but are confident that the financing will be arranged.

Jennings also said that the city, state and federal officials have received briefings and they hope to have all the permits needed by the end of the year. Demolition of existing structures would begin next winter, followed by construction. The office buildings and hotel would take about a year to build, he said, and the arena/convention center and music hall would take about 18 months to complete.




Current site, via Bing Maps
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Old 04-27-2011, 07:51 PM   #5
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Whoa! This kind of takes the wind out of the Shipyard guy's sails.

Looks to me that an in-town convention center is a legitimate enterprise, if two separate developers are racing to build one with private financing.

Related to this: there's also a city-endorsed planning effort that's going to get underway next year to look at the Exit 5 intersection with Congress, Park, and the Fore River Parkway, and look at options to remove and redevelop some of those redundant on- and off-ramps. With the two hospitals so close by, and a growing health care industry, this area of Libbytown could soon feel like a legitimate extension of downtown.

This is a decent-looking development, and its location next to the train station is fantastic. My only regret is that they're proposing to tear down the old brick warehouse, which could have been something awesome (it looks as though they're putting the garage there instead). Maybe a creative rearrangement of the site could still save it - but on the whole, it would be pretty great for the city to see this idea built.
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Old 04-27-2011, 08:12 PM   #6
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

This is a great plan.....the timing is perfect....two proposals, and neither proposal is funded yet. Im curious to see who gets theirs built first.....
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Old 04-27-2011, 08:18 PM   #7
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Quote:
Looks to me that an in-town convention center is a legitimate enterprise, if two separate developers are racing to build one with private financing.
This is speaking as an outsider, but it seems to me that calling Thompson's Point in-town is a bit generous. Despite the train station, the spot is isolated from downtown by the interchange and the project itself faces no street, but rather faces a sort of paved "green." Unless there are major transit improvements, I really don't see people getting to this spot by any mode other than car, at least from within Portland. It's not terrible on its own, but I think the danger is that it will take the wind out of other developers' sails and you might end up with a major development on the outskirts instead of projects in actual, built-up areas of Portland.
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Old 04-27-2011, 09:54 PM   #8
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

This will be an interesting sight visually as drivers enter or depart Portland on I295 and I will not miss the derelict structures that currently make up Thompson's Point. Though I would prefer a convention center downtown, at this point, I'll be happy with any meeting facility within the city limits.

The arena for the Red Claws will also hold 4500 for concerts which will fit nicely in between the 1900 seat Merrill Auditorium and the 8800 seat Civic Center for mid size shows. Looks like the developers have the financial clout to make this project a reality.

Doubt that the Shipyard Brewery project would work due to the close proximity of a residential neighborhood and the constant odor of the brewing process that can be pretty strong at times. Not a great building to construct a convention center on top of in my opinion!
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:18 PM   #9
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Told you guys months ago I heard they were looking to put the new red claws arena there. Looks pretty sick. I heard the land is toxic or something there.
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:47 PM   #10
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Some initial thoughts. I agree almost 100% with Mike. Yet, at the same time, Portlander has a good point in that the Shipyard site might not be ideal, and a convention center might be a good thing to have. But also, aren't they attractive venues because they draw business to surrounding areas? And what is in this area other than a gas station? The development looks pretty suburban, yet would be better than the status quo.

For $100 million, I'd like to see some more. And what is that little twisty building?

I think residential would be better on this site, upscale. The project here reminds me of Dunstan's Corner smart growth proposals in Scarborough from a while back--nice, but isolated.

Ocean Gateway had a similar competition that went on between rival developers, and if anything we are now behind where the city was prior to that process. The pier is still what it was, and now a similar project is unlikely to materialize, even in a better economy.

And the new cinemagic movie theater was proposed at the same time as a competing 16 screen megaplex for the the former Filene's store...which is still vacant.

The civic center renovation vs. Jason Snyder's lifestyle center at Stroudwater

And now the convention center rivalry...we'll see.
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Old 04-28-2011, 07:58 AM   #11
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Quote:
Originally Posted by cneal View Post
Related to this: there's also a city-endorsed planning effort that's going to get underway next year to look at the Exit 5 intersection with Congress, Park, and the Fore River Parkway, and look at options to remove and redevelop some of those redundant on- and off-ramps. With the two hospitals so close by, and a growing health care industry, this area of Libbytown could soon feel like a legitimate extension of downtown.
This is a big piece of the puzzle for me. I think Thompson's Point is close enough to downtown that this could really 'extend' the peninsula by promoting further development between Libbytown and downtown. Re-configuring the exit 5 interchange, as well as the exit 6 interchange (as highlighted by CNeal over at Rights of Way) would knock down some big barriers to this part of town. I am very impressed that the developers of this potential project have noted the benefit of the nearby Portland Transportation Center in this truly transit oriented development.

One additional comment for the moment concerning the proposed layout: I would settle for a bigger parking garage, perhaps it could be integrated into the buildings to be less intrusive, to avoid having the 'courtyard' of the development be almost entirely automobile parking.

I last walked around this area last fall I think; it's quite photographic in its current partly-abandoned industrial state. You can walk around the entire Point and under the 295 bridge over to the Fore River Parkway.
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Old 04-28-2011, 12:02 PM   #12
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

@Patrick - Having done some exploring around here myself, I think that residential uses on this site would be tough to do. It's right next to a freeway, and the waterfront portion of it isn't that scenic - it's frequently more of a mudflat than open water, and the view across the water is of the airport. It could work on the "phase two" part of the property to the NW, closer to the railroad tracks, which is further away from the freeway and the airport.

I agree that this site doesn't feel "in town" now - but lots of people and planners want that to change, and this project could be a good impetus for a more walkable neighborhood to happen in Libbytown.

I think the convention element of the site is the one that's most promising from a transit-oriented development perspective. The buses and trains that stop at the PTC already bring in thousands of people every day from Boston. Next year, people will be able to take trains from here to downtown Freeport and Brunswick - more catnip for conventioneers. I completely agree that a downtown site would have been better for local small businesses, and getting more tourists to walk around the Old Port. But a downtown convention center wouldn't have convenient intercity transit links - most visitors would feel a need to rent cars at the airport or drive themselves, and leave their cars parked in downtown garages, which isn't efficient. A Thompsons Point convention center could realistically get more people to come to Portland on business, and since they'll be running up bar tabs anyhow, rely on buses or cabs to get downtown in the evening.

The city's also been talking about implementing "circulator" buses between the PTC and downtown districts, running every 10-15 minutes 20 hours a day. A convention center next to the PTC would be a strong impetus to make that happen sooner.
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Old 04-28-2011, 05:03 PM   #13
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

I think the layout needs some major tweaking, and in general, I don't share the optimism of this project that many others feel.

Right now, the centerpiece of the project is almost entirely parking. Even if the parking is replaced entirely or largely with greenspace, I think the open space is going to be out of proportion to the amount and intensity of uses there. Maybe on occasion, a big event can be held outdoors here, but the space seems far too large. Perhaps adding another building to the middle, thus breaking the open space into two smaller, more intimate spaces--one mostly enclosed, and the other mostly open to the river--would help.

A much bigger flaw, though, is how insulated and self-focused the plan is. The plan turns its back not only to the city, but also to the suburban-style transit center that has been suggested as one of the site's strengths. The siting is entirely unwelcoming to pedestrians walking from the transit center, let alone the long walk from Congress Street. A circulator bus would help for sure, but I think that also negates much of the logic for needing to build this adjacent to the transit center on the outskirts in order to benefit from rail passengers.

Frankly, I'm very skeptical that this area will ever be truly urban or considered an extension of downtown Portland. Even if the interchange is reconfigured, which would be good, there will be a huge, open void to be filled with new development before the walk or bus ride from downtown is ever enjoyable enough to attract a significant number of people. Between the interchange and the relatively low-density development along Congress west of Saint John, you're talking about an enormous amount of land that has never historically been built as part of the urban fabric.

It seems like things are improving a bit, but Portland has been struggling to extend downtown just across Congress Street to Bayside, a short walk from the Old Port. Given that, I don't see how this area, far from the heart of downtown, could be successful as anything other than an isolated development. Moreover, I don't know why people would hope it would be.

The problems of extending downtowns and attracting urban development are hardly unique to Portland, but it seems like Portland has done a better job than many other places of avoiding the sort of isolated, fringe developments that this represents. Portland isn't a huge city, the local market can only support so many developments; I'd much rather see it concentrate on attracting urban development to Bayside and the true downtown, along with some better mid-density neighborhood development along the old "streetcar suburb" streets than investing in developments like this that I fear could take the wind out of the sails of other, better sites and proposals.
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Old 04-28-2011, 05:34 PM   #14
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

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Originally Posted by FrankLloydMike View Post
I think the layout needs some major tweaking, and in general, I don't share the optimism of this project that many others feel.

Right now, the centerpiece of the project is almost entirely parking. Even if the parking is replaced entirely or largely with greenspace, I think the open space is going to be out of proportion to the amount and intensity of uses there. Maybe on occasion, a big event can be held outdoors here, but the space seems far too large. Perhaps adding another building to the middle, thus breaking the open space into two smaller, more intimate spaces--one mostly enclosed, and the other mostly open to the river--would help.

A much bigger flaw, though, is how insulated and self-focused the plan is. The plan turns its back not only to the city, but also to the suburban-style transit center that has been suggested as one of the site's strengths. The siting is entirely unwelcoming to pedestrians walking from the transit center, let alone the long walk from Congress Street. A circulator bus would help for sure, but I think that also negates much of the logic for needing to build this adjacent to the transit center on the outskirts in order to benefit from rail passengers.

Frankly, I'm very skeptical that this area will ever be truly urban or considered an extension of downtown Portland. Even if the interchange is reconfigured, which would be good, there will be a huge, open void to be filled with new development before the walk or bus ride from downtown is ever enjoyable enough to attract a significant number of people. Between the interchange and the relatively low-density development along Congress west of Saint John, you're talking about an enormous amount of land that has never historically been built as part of the urban fabric.

It seems like things are improving a bit, but Portland has been struggling to extend downtown just across Congress Street to Bayside, a short walk from the Old Port. Given that, I don't see how this area, far from the heart of downtown, could be successful as anything other than an isolated development. Moreover, I don't know why people would hope it would be.

The problems of extending downtowns and attracting urban development are hardly unique to Portland, but it seems like Portland has done a better job than many other places of avoiding the sort of isolated, fringe developments that this represents. Portland isn't a huge city, the local market can only support so many developments; I'd much rather see it concentrate on attracting urban development to Bayside and the true downtown, along with some better mid-density neighborhood development along the old "streetcar suburb" streets than investing in developments like this that I fear could take the wind out of the sails of other, better sites and proposals.
Insightful, and well put. The red claws would benefit from a new arena there, but I don't know about the other uses, which I agree won't extend downtown. Also, the tallest building is a parking garage...I think this would be better for residential than urban center, despite the less than perfect water views. The site has actually been considered for huge residential units previously. This development should happen closer to downtown.
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Old 04-28-2011, 05:56 PM   #15
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

The location isnt ideal....and a convention center downtown would be great. Hasnt Portland been trying to get a convention center downtown for years? It seems like if we wait for one to get built downtown, you will be waiting forever.
Getting one built somewhere will be a step forward, economically anyway. Downtown's loss is Thompson's Point's gain unfortunately
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Old 04-29-2011, 12:21 AM   #16
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

The location for this is not ideal, Todd, you are correct. But part of me thinks a growing economy is a good economy, and I really think the Red Claws are a great asset to the local quality of life. They do need their own place other than the Expo, and I while I wish that place was intown somewhere (even the expo is too removed for my tastes), the management there thinks Thompson's Point would be best. I think the arena may work there, but the development it is coupled with is not great. However, we have to remember this is a conceptual plan at this point, subject to change as based on community input. I think it was Mike who raised the point that the layout of the buildings is off, and should be more of a dispersed development pattern (not the bad type, i.e. sprawl) to break up the large open spaces of parking. I agree.

There are a couple moderate sized office buildings that are completely isolated from each other in a way that looks like suburbia to me. There is no walkability here. no connectivity. and the tallest structure is a parking garage. These places may make money, but they don't "work." I can see this as the subject of a future planning exercise "fixing Thompson's Point." Well, the time to fix it is now, before it is built. Do it right so it doesn't need tweaking in the future. The basic design principles are well understood and accepted universally, so it is a wonder something like this would even be proposed. There was a design concept released by Tony Donovan, who markets this property, a few years back that detailed how a whole new urbanist village and workplace could be built here. The rendering is in this thread somewhere. That would have been far preferable to this development. Its not the uses proposed this time around, but their layout, that is bothersome. Who would want to work here? Who would want to go to a Red Claws game and park in a parking garage? I might if it were intown, but otherwise I'd be circling the parking lot. Then I'd go home, not to a surrounding business. Just moving the pieces around would do wonders for this site plan. The office buildings should be built together, in a prominent high rise, and leave the rest of the space for green use, or they should be split up into several smaller low rise buildings with a continuous connection, to create a street wall. They should not, however, be built as islands.
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Old 04-29-2011, 07:03 AM   #17
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

I think highrise office towers would be better for this development....it wouldnt fix all the design issues, but four or five story office towers are too bland. If its going to be this far out of town, they should go back to the drawing board and make a visit to Thompson's Point worthwhile
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Old 04-29-2011, 08:06 AM   #18
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Great points, FrankLloydMike, Patrick, and Toddc.

My enthusiasm so far for this proposal is not taking into account the fact that I would prefer more development downtown on the peninsula. Looking just at Thompson's Point, I see this as a generally positive development. The buildings definitely could be re-arranged to be much less suburban. Of course, being a car-free Portlandite, in a dream world I would image no parking lots and much denser development here. But I guess I am just happy that something generally positive is being proposed for the site, even if it doesn't replicate the type of development I dream of. If this was being proposed for Bayside, I imagine I would be quite disappointed.

I don't know if high rise office towers (anything over say 5 stories) would make sense here due to demand and the fact that the Jetport is quite close by.
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Old 04-29-2011, 02:09 PM   #19
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

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Great points, FrankLloydMike, Patrick, and Toddc.

My enthusiasm so far for this proposal is not taking into account the fact that I would prefer more development downtown on the peninsula. Looking just at Thompson's Point, I see this as a generally positive development. The buildings definitely could be re-arranged to be much less suburban. Of course, being a car-free Portlandite, in a dream world I would image no parking lots and much denser development here. But I guess I am just happy that something generally positive is being proposed for the site, even if it doesn't replicate the type of development I dream of. If this was being proposed for Bayside, I imagine I would be quite disappointed.

I don't know if high rise office towers (anything over say 5 stories) would make sense here due to demand and the fact that the Jetport is quite close by.
Corey, high-rise is used loosely, and refers to essentially combining the two office buildings shown into one taller structure to preserve more open space and be more visually significant. It would be a building of about ten stories, and isn't in the direct flight path. If there is demand for two smaller office buildings, I suspect it would only be greater for a taller building with better views. You are right that it is good something positive is planned for this area, but it could be better!
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Old 04-29-2011, 03:11 PM   #20
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Re: Thompson's Point, Portland

Is there a link to the residential proposal? I'd be interested to see that.

There have been a lot of comments along the line of this being far from ideal, but still good that some development is happening here. Again, I'm not very familiar with that area of Portland (aside from getting gas nearby and picking people up at the PTC when I worked on Sebago Lake during high school), but I wonder if this isn't one of those sites better left undeveloped.

Sure, it's on the water, but without a high-rise, I can't see what views it has--the highway? the airport? the oil storage tanks? If there is a high-rise, I'd fear that it would end up being the rather unsuccessful tower-in-the-park type. It seems far too isolated to ever be a part of the downtown, and unless the PTC, parking lots and Fore River Parkway are developed, I think it will be difficult to get people to even walk there from Congress Street.

I've already said that I think building a lot of office space, a convention center and an arena here would reduce the demand for those things elsewhere in more appropriate locations. I also think a major development here, which I believe would almost certainly be unsuccessful from an urbanist perspective, would use up a lot of energy better spent in Bayside, the Eastern Waterfront and elsewhere downtown, as well as getting a Downeaster stop somewhere in town.
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