$2.1 million in federal funding will support new public greenspace in Portland

Jan. 10—Construction on a new public greenspace on Portland's eastern waterfront is expected to start next year using $2.1 million in recently secured federal funding.

The city of Portland and Portland Parks Conservancy are working on the first phase of the Portland Harbor Common, which will transform a city-owned parking area between the Maine State Pier and the Ocean Gateway International Marine Passenger Terminal into an open space preserved for the public.

The nonprofit parks conservancy was awarded $2.1 million for the project last month as part of a federal appropriations package.

"It's something we're excited to do for the people of Portland to keep their connection to the waterfront," said Nan Cumming, executive director of the Portland Parks Conservancy.

Design, permitting and the bid process for the project are expected to take place this year with construction starting in 2024. The parks conservancy is expecting the $2.1 million, in addition to $150,000 the city allocated last year for designing project, to cover the entire cost, though Cumming said a final price hasn't yet been determined.

The project would be the first phase of a larger plan the city has been working on to redevelop public land on the eastern waterfront. In 2021, several private individuals came forward with ideas for creating open space, the city got involved and the parks conservancy agreed to take on fundraising.

"We're thankful for the federal funding and look forward to realizing the transformation of this underutilized city property into a more vibrant space for the public," said city spokesperson Jessica Grondin in an email.

Design for the first phase of the project is underway and details are not yet finalized, but Cumming said it will include "a lot of open green space" and possibly a stage or plaza to serve as a performance space.

"It's really going to be a multi-functional space that can be used in a variety of ways," she said. "That's the goal."

Some parking will be retained on either side of the new greenspace, Cumming said. The project is also expected to set the stage for future phases, though Cumming said she did not have details Tuesday on what those will look like.

"One benefit of doing this in phases is we can look at the first phase and see what people end up doing there," Cumming said. "That might inform what we want to do in other phases."

The project is one of 140 in Maine to receive funding in the federal appropriations package approved by Congress last month. U.S. Sen. Angus King, in a statement at the time, said the funding is being used for a wide array of projects at the state and local level as well as by nonprofits.

"These historic investments are going directly to the local organizations who need them the most and can effectively provide economic opportunities, personal enrichment, and other vital public services," King said.