Congress Square group wants to reconcile with City Hall after contentious vote

Yesterday, I wrote about how the people in the group Friends of Congress Square Park want to keep the pedal down in terms of revitalizing the approximately 14,500-square-foot public space. This morning, the group issued an additional statement emphasizing that it wants to work arm-in-arm with the city in that effort.

(Oct. 2013 BDN file photo)

(Oct. 2013 BDN file photo)

In case you haven’t been following the tale of Congress Square, here’s the Karate Kid training montage version: The City Council agreed to sell two-thirds of the square to private hotel investors RockBridge Capital LLC last September, opponents of the sale argued the space should remain public and requested petitions to place further protections upon it (and dozens of other city parks), the city refused to issue those petitions, the petitioners and the city duked it out in court, the petitioners won in court and then again at the polls on Tuesday, and now that original sale to RockBridge Capital is up in the air.

Over the last nine months, I think it’s fair to say that Friends of Congress Square Park, one of the two groups which spearheaded the petition drive, and the city of Portland had an adversarial relationship.

If nothing else, the two were on opposite sides of a legal battle that went all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and I won’t get into the rest of the posturing that took place between the two sides in the months leading into Tuesday’s election. (Click here for an example.)

With the dust settled, however, the Friends members issued a statement this morning urging their recent political opponents to work alongside them moving forward.

(BDN file photo)

Frank Turek (BDN file photo)

Friends leaders Frank Turek and David LaCasse told me on Wednesday they’d like to see the city revive a committee that had been tasked with drawing up a plan for revitalizing and/or redesigning the square, and they reiterated that message in this Thursday morning statement.

Said Turek in the statement:

We hope the city of Portland proceeds with its original plan to redesign the entire park. We look forward to working with them to make this important public park a place we can all be proud of. … We want to do it right this time, and we look forward to working with the city, residents and the business community to make sure we get it right. Together, we will make this a great park.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

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