The City of Portland has an opportunity most of us never get in our lives: a chance to do it over and get it right the second time.

On Jan. 16, Portland Mayor Jill Duson announced that the developer Ocean Properties withdrew from negotiations with the city to redevelop Maine State Pier.

This comes just two months after the deal with the developer chosen by the City Council, The Olympia Companies, fell apart when the state claimed it owns the ocean floor under the pier. Olympia had planned a $160 million development on the pier, including a hotel, office park and parking complex. The then council decided to work with the other developer, Ocean Properties, only to have them pull out.

This news is not a disaster. It offers the city the chance to start from the beginning and get this project right. It’s time for the city to engage in true community input about the future of this site, rather than just stating commercial development is the only solution to the pier’s problems.

The Maine State Pier is an important part of the city’s waterfront. The ferry system that serves Casco Bay’s five unbridged islands with year-round communities, Casco Bay Lines, is located on part of this pier. To the east of the pier, the city has built Ocean Gateway, a terminal for cruise ships.

The city says the Maine State Pier needs $15 million in repairs, which the city cannot afford. But what is the best way to get those repairs done?

From the beginning, there were questions about why the city decided only a private developer would fix the pier, in exchange for the right to build a hotel-retail-parking complex.

To allow commercial development on the Maine State Pier, the city had to change its own working waterfront ordinance, and permit hotel, retail and other commercial development on the pier. The working waterfront ordinance was passed in 1987, after condominiums were built in the heart of the Portland waterfront.

The rezoning of the Maine State Pier was so egregious that the Portland Planning Board voted 5 to 0 against it in July 2006. Board members called the zoning change bad policy drafted without community input that strayed from the city’s goal of protecting the working waterfront, according to a July 26, 2006 article in the Portland Press Herald.

Private wharf owners were understandably outraged, saying the city was grabbing development for itself, such as a waterfront hotel, which it will not allow in the rest of the central working waterfront zone.

If the city wants to debate whether the central waterfront zone works, that’s one matter. But that debate should be part of an orderly process of re-examining the working waterfront ordinance, not the consequence of a poorly thought out development proposal for the Mainer State Pier.

Now it’s back to square one for the pier. Already some are saying the city cannot afford a lengthy planning process for this site. After all that has already happened, a hurry-up process is exactly the wrong approach. As At-Large Portland City Councilor John Anton said, in an interview, “The good news is we have an opportunity to do what should have been done right out of the gate, which is to ask the community what it is we want to do with that space. As disappointed as people are by the outcome, it does give us a chance to do some thoughtful planning.”

When it comes to this vital piece of Portland’s waterfront, an inclusive process that takes community concerns seriously is the only way to move forward.