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October 10, 2017

South Portland zoning changes set stage for West End development

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Portland businessman Quang Nguyen, owner of Le Variety on Westbrook Street in South Portland, plans to build a 130-to-140-unit multi-use building on the lot and the vacant one next door, allowed by a zoning change approved by the City Council last week. Le Variety would be one of the businesses on the ground floor of the building.​

The South Portland City Council approved new zoning rules that city officials say will reshape two of the city's neighborhoods.

The council approved combining eight zoning districts in the West End into four, a move that will allow a multi-use building with 130 to 140 apartments and ground-floor retail in the area known as "the triangle," on Westbrook Street between Brick Hill and Red Bank, The Forecaster reported.

The council also agreed to create the Meeting House Hill Transitional District on Cottage Road between Viking and Pillsbury streets, that allows that business uses at seven properties.

Portland businessman Quang Nguyen, who owns the Le Variety convenience store at 586 Westbrook St., will move the store into the ground floor of the building, and there will be room for other retail as well. He bought the 0.25-acre vacant lot for $86,000 in July, with the help of the city's revolving loan fund and plans to combine it with the adjacent 0.66-acre that his store is currently on.

Nguyen is partnering with Avesta Housing, which is getting funding from Maine State Housing, contingent on the master plan being completed, the Forecaster reported.

The changes in the West End zoning were made possible by the creation of the West End Master Plan, which the council adopted Aug. 21, and are necessary to implement the plan for the multi-use building proposed by Nguyen and Avesta Housing. The plan's objectives include neighborhood connectivity, regional access for residents, sustainability, increasing recreation and open space, and developing a neighborhood center.

The plan also includes streetscape and other improvements to the neighborhood, making it safer and more walkable. The area, according to the Greater Portland Council of Governments, which helped develop the plan, has 3,000 residents, 90% of whom rent.

Mayor Patti Smith said the plan for the West End is the "next horizon (for the city) in many ways," The Forecaster reported.

The Meetinghouse Hill Community Commercial District, at the other end of the city, includes two blocks in the north side of Cottage Road, and had been Transitional Residential and Limited Business zones.

Cape Elizabeth resident Gail Bruzgo requested the zoning change in order to relocate Omi's Coffee Shop from 28 Brackett St. in Portland to 372 Cottage Road, according to the ordinance document on file with the city. Four abutters joined Bruzgo in the request.

Bruzgo bought the building, which most recently housed a real estate office, in May.

City officials said that they wanted to provide a walkable commercial district for residents of the neighborhood, similar to the Knightville district. A committee appointed by the Council at the Oct. 2 meeting will monitor foot and bicycle traffic in the new district and report back in the spring.

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