Portland’s Working Waterfront


The Issue

On December 17, 2018 the Portland City Council voted to approve a six-month moratorium on non-marine development in the Waterfront Central Zone.  The impetus for adoption was a citizen’s referendum that would have eliminated non-marine-related development on Portland’s waterfront. The proposed fishermen’s referendum is a reaction to increasing non-marine development, limited parking, and increasing traffic congestion that is hampering the transportation of their product as well as access to berths and marine related businesses. As part of the council action, a task force was created to try to solve traffic congestion and other access issues that led fishermen to seek the referendum in the first place.

Our Position

The harbor and the working waterfront are significant to the historic growth and development of the city and the region. The waterfront’s authentic character is a large part of why tourists and locals are drawn to visit, work, and live in the city. Planning decisions need to balance disparate uses and ensure that they can coexist next to each other. Waterfront policies should preserve marine uses, but also provide for a balance of non-marine uses to allow the waterfront to adapt to changing economic requirements and evolving infrastructure needs, and to spur needed investment.

Landmarks’ mission to preserve Greater Portland’s remarkable legacy of buildings, landscapes, and parks is achieved in part by identifying valuable historic resources that tell the story of our community. That story is in large part defined by the waterfront. Landmarks supported the moratorium and we have closely followed the study group discussions and have commissioned a historic resources survey to document culturally significant buildings and structures that may be impacted by sea level rise. We are hopeful that the current dialogue and cooperation between parties will preserve Portland’s working waterfront for future generations.


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