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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The "Other" Portland

On a recent vacation, I had the opportunity to visit Portland. No not the west coast Portland that everyone is talking about in regards to Cincinnati's Issue 9, but rather the east coast Portland. During a week spent mostly in mid-coast Maine, I took some time to drop in on Portland to see what that city had to offer. With a metro population of 230,000 it is rather small compared to what we are used to here in Cincinnati, but it is home to one quarter of all residents in Maine. I honestly was not expecting too much, but was rather surprised by what I found.

Being a coastal town, I did think that this would be a city center full of shops and dinners that catered to Maine tourists and took advantage of their geographic location. I had pictured lobster flavored beer and lighthouses on doormats. But, much to my surprise what I found instead was a city block after city block of eclectic shops and independent restaurants. As I spent my evening wandering around shops and stopping off for dinner and drinks, I thought “this is exactly what OTR could be given a chance” and an UrbanCincy post was born.

The biggest thing that jumped out was that Portland seemed to have was a unified vision of what they wanted in this area. It could have been tacky t-shirt shops and chain restaurants. They could have promoted tear-downs and rebuilds to bring a more modern feel to the town. Instead funky shops, boutiques, and art galleries lined the street and used old buildings that had clearly been in downtown Portland for quite a while. While I was there on a Wednesday night in what is the start of the off-season, there was a good amount of people out and about enjoying themselves.

If nothing else Portland, Maine has an identity, and that is something that our area desperately seems to be searching for. It is my opinion that with a streetcar, a successful Banks project, and continued development on the river in Northern Kentucky we will have one that is appealing to long time residents, local college students, and outsiders that may consider Cincinnati as a place to live. The photos above are a small sampling of the establishments around downtown Portland.


Steve Ramos said...

My family and I also visited Portland, Maine recently on a balmy March afternoon. It's eclectic, walkable, full of great dining choices and brewpubs. One important point, especially during this current debate about funding improved transportation, whether streetcars or inter-city rail. We made the day trip to Portland via Amtrak, while visiting relatives in Boston. It was quick, easy and made for a more enjoyable experience.

CityKin said...

That is a great little town. Have relatives that live nearby and the housing prices were skyrocketing when we visited in 2005. There were definitely concerns about long term viability if the middle classs couldn't afford to live there.

Jason said...

I was just there about 2 months ago myself. Agreed its a great little town. They are looking into a streetcar system there too!

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