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Posted on: May 14, 2021

May 18 Meeting to Discuss Recommendation for Homeless Services Center Developer & Land Swap with DOT


The Council’s Housing & Economic Development Committee will discuss City staff’s recommendation for a developer to create a new Homeless Services Center as well as a proposed land swap exchange with MaineDOT during its May 18 meeting.

The Council’s Housing & Economic Development Committee (HEDC) will discuss City staff’s recommendation for a developer to create a new Homeless Services Center (HSC) as well as a proposed land swap exchange with MaineDOT during its May 18 meeting

HSC Recommendation 

At the end of April, the City received three development proposals in response to the Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFP) the City issued to support construction of a new HSC. City staff is recommending the selection of Developers CollaborativeCity staff reviewed all three proposals received and scored them based upon the criteria outlined in the RFP. The Developers Collaborative Proposal scored the highest due to its extensive local experience with redevelopment of former public and private properties, its creative site design and modular type facility construction, and its proven ability to navigate challenging neighborhood and publicly controversial development projects.

Staff will seek direction from HEDC on the developer selection for the City to then enter into an agreement to construct, own and manage the HSC. Following Committee direction, the Committee and full Council will need to approve a final agreement with the developer. 

HSC Background

On June 17, 2019, the City Council approved the creation of a modern homeless services center with emergency shelter access and complete wrap-around services to be located at 654 Riverside Street on vacant, City-owned property. Since then, City staff has been exploring various development and funding approaches to support the project, including federal and state grant funding along with options to involve the private sector. 

In light of the pandemic, the City had to add additional scope and requirements to the RFQ/P to ensure proposals took into consideration necessary physical distancing requirements. The City originally estimated it would cost approximately $8-$10 million to construct the new facility. However, since that original estimate, the project grew in size due to needing more space for pandemic safety measures, and overall construction costs have risen significantly due to global pressures and demand. In a January 2021 memo to the Housing & Economic Development Committee, prior to the release of the RFQ/P, the City estimated the total cost would be higher and include a lease payment in the range of $1 - $1.4 million per year over a 20 year period. These factors can be seen at play in the proposals the City received.  

Given the lack of available federal and state support, the City is engaging private sector partners to handle all portions of the project leading up to City occupancy. The private sector partners would then lease the HSC to the City of Portland. Depending upon the project approach, the Homeless Services Center could be ready for City occupancy within 24 months following Council approval. 

Proposed Land Swap Deal with MaineDOT

Originally contemplated back in 2018, the proposed land exchange agreement between the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) and the City will benefit both the State of Maine and the City of Portland. The properties are determined to be of equivalent value so no money will change hands. 

City of Portland Properties to Exchange with MDOT

Marine Terminal Property currently leased to the Maine Port Authority. The State continues to make major multi-million-dollar investments in the Marine Terminal site and adjacent State-owned properties to support international cargo shipping through Eimskip’s operations, along with the proposed cold storage facility. Adding the City-owned property to the adjacent state-owned property makes sense for the State and the City.

Cliff Island Wharf.  The State owns all public wharfs in Casco Bay. Transferring this responsibility to the State relieves the City of all financial maintenance responsibility for this Wharf in the future.

MaineDOT Properties to Exchange with the City

Wye Property along County Way. This is a 10-acre site with known environmental issues which City staff feel can be managed to support site development in the future. The City has completed a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment (ESA), and Phase II ESA work is underway.  The environmental assessment work will be completed before the properties are exchanged. Land on the peninsula of this size is scarce, and it will be valuable for the City to own this property, in the future, to support future development investment.

Park & Ride Lot on Marginal Way adjacent to Miss Portland Diner. It is important for the City to own this property in the future as its intended future use is to support transportation activities, including electric vehicle charging stations.

Former Union Branch Rail Corridor from Forest Avenue to Park Ave, including the railroad bridge, as an improved multi-purpose trail. City ownership and MaineDOT commitment to construct a multi-use trail will complete a major trail connection throughout the city. In addition, the City is under contract to do design work for the last remaining trail connection between Park Ave and the Portland Transportation Center. 

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