Future of Congress Square uncertain

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Tuesday, voters in Portland passed Question One, determining that they should have a say in selling public land, rather than letting the city council decide.

The issue first came about when the city wanted to sell part of Congress Square Plaza to the owner of the Westin hotel next door.

Tuesday's vote means there are now 35 new parks in the city's land bank including Congress Square, and the city now needs approval from 8 out of 9 city councilors or approval from voters to sell any of that land.

What will become of Congress Square and those plans to build an event center remains to be seen. The Friends of Congress Square say their focus now is on small improvements to the park, like more seating and landscaping. They also say they would like to bring in a designer to come up with a new plan for the park. The group is willing to launch a capital campaign to pay for it.

Those in favor of selling the park and building an event center say if there is another referendum, they will campaign again in full force. But the mayor say it's too soon to tell whether it will come to that.

"I don't know at this point," Mayor Michael Brennan told NEWS CENTER. "I haven't had a conversation with the Westin Hotel, and I just don't know. It's too early at this point to know what their appetite is for continuing to pursue an event space."

The general manager of the Westin, Bruce Wennerstrom, also says the hotel hasn't made a decision about how to move forward. In the meantime, the Friends of Congress Square has a list of events planned for the park this summer, starting with streaming the World Cup.


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