St. Louis leaves Portland development post

We’ve got a blurb on this headed for the main BDN website, but here’s the text of the city of Portland’s news release announcing the departure of Penny St. Louis, head of the Department of Planning and Urban Development:

Today, Portland City Manager Mark Rees announced the City of Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Director Penny St. Louis plans to leave her post at the end of the month in the pursuit of new professional opportunities. For nearly fourteen years, St. Louis served the City of Portland in two capacities, first as Associate Corporation Counsel and then as Planning and Urban Development Director. In 2008, St. Louis was asked by Portland City Manager Joseph Gray to oversee the reorganization of the Planning and Urban Development Department and lead efforts to revamp and streamline the department in a way that makes it easier and more accessible to the public.  For the past three years, she led the overhaul of the city’s site plan standards, implemented a number of internal reorganizations to shift to a more customer service focus, and oversaw changes to the administration of the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to ensure a fair and equitable application and allocation process.

“Penny has been a real asset to the city and her positive impact within the department as well as across the city will be felt for many years to come,” stated City Manager Rees. “No undertaking was too large or too challenging for her and I, as well as my predecessor Joe, thank her heartily for her hard work and commitment to the city.”

During St. Louis’ tenure, she led efforts to reinvigorate the city’s waterfront through changes to the city’s Central Waterfront Zone by striking the right balance between protecting the character defining maritime uses the city cherishes with other development that increasingly characterizes the city’s new economy.  The changes, approved earlier this year by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, sought equilibrium by creating a mixed-use waterfront that supports the city’s marine-based industries as well as creates new opportunity for local businesses and pier owners. St. Louis built broad base support and established consensus among a variety of interests through the process. 

St. Louis also worked closely with local businesses and developers to ensure redevelopment or new development in previously depressed or blighted areas, from the new construction of a hotel and restaurant on the defunct Jordan’s Meats factory site to the renovation of the Cumberland Cold Storage building to the $100 million development project at Thompson’s Point.

“It has been my pleasure to work with many quality staff members at the city who shared my passion for improving life in the community I am fortunate enough to call home,” stated St. Louis. “The business community and non-profit entities making up Portland, too, have enriched my professional growth as we navigated, together, changes to the City Codes, administration of HUD CDBG and HOME funds, and – yes – even enforcement of city and state regulations. I believe and trust my service to the city over these years has also contributed to this great place.”

St. Louis played a key role working with Maine’s Congressional Delegation, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in advocating for the City of Portland when the federal agency sought to adopt updated flood maps that would have ended development along the waterfront. The effort paid off last June when FEMA announced plans to maintain the “A” zone classification, which allows new structures on piers – along the city’s waterfront, and ensure the continuation of the city’s vibrant regional working waterfront. The FEMA Map Modernization Program continues to update flood maps around the country, including the Maine coast, in an effort to present the most accurate portrayal of flood risk to areas and structures.

“Directing the city’s Planning and Urban Development Department has been an incredible challenge and I believe that, along with many dedicated staff members, we have been able to implement many of the necessary changes to move the department forward and make it more responsive to the public and business community’s needs. It is incredibly rewarding to complete my service with the city knowing that the vision set forth nearly four years ago has become a reality,” concluded St. Louis.   

As Associate Corporation Counsel, St. Louis provided legal advice to city departments and staff, particularly the Planning Department. In that capacity, St. Louis successfully defended the city against various challenges to city ordinances and land use decisions. 

St. Louis’ last day of service will be October 28, 2001. In the coming weeks, Rees will make announcements for an Acting Director of Planning and Urban Development as well as a national search process.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.