PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- City officials and members the public got their first look Wednesday at a proposal to build an event space on Congress Square Plaza.
It's part of the massive renovation project at the former Eastland Hotel. The developers of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel want to buy most of the public plaza and build a 5,000 square foot event center there. The plan presented to the Housing and Community Development Committee during Wednesday night's workshop is scaled back from a larger plan the city rejected last summer. City councilors were concerned about the size of the project and about selling public land for private development. A group committed to saving the plaza was not swayed by the changes they saw tonight.
"They said that this is going to be the biggest hotel in Maine," Frank Turek of Friends of COngress Square Park said. "There's going to be a lot of people who need a lot of space when they come out of that hotel ,and if they come out into a beautifully well designed public park, that would be the perfect gateway to the city."
But the hotel's general manager says the plaza is failing as a public space, and would better serve the city if it were developed.
"The extra meetings facility that we would add on to part of what has been the plaza will help the trickle down effect immensely in terms of jobs, in terms of taxes, in terms of extra income for all the shop owners," Bruce Wennerstrom said. "There's so many benefits to this."
The developers will begin meeting with local groups and businesses about the plan Thursday. They were reluctant to say whether they would adjust the plan before bringing it back to the city council.