Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pier project inches forward

"The $100 million project to redevelop the Maine State Pier in Portland cleared another hurdle Monday night, but only after catcalls from plenty of critics.

City councilors approved a preliminary agreement between Portland and The Olympia Cos., the developer selected to build a hotel, office and park complex on and around the pier.

The 7-1 vote set final contract talks in motion and came after eight months of negotiations.

Critics spent much of their time targeting one aspect of the agreement: a schedule that would have Olympia pay no rent for the first 20 years of its 75-year lease, two decades the developer would instead spend paying off an $18 million loan from the Finance Authority of Maine to fund repairs to the aging pier.

Councilor Dan Skolnik called the preliminary agreement 'one heck of a sweetheart deal' that will deprive the city of millions in rent.

Skolnik was the lone opponent when the council voted on the deal, but he was not alone in his criticism. (Councilor James Cohen recused himself because his law firm works for Olympia.)

Critics said while city officials claim Olympia gets no tax breaks in the deal, the 20-year rent break is tantamount to public subsidy." more...
-Portland Press Herald

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