Board to consider Portland Co. historic nomination

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PORTLAND — Creation of a historic preservation district at the Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. will be the topic of an April 1 Historic Preservation Board workshop.

The nomination creates another wrinkle for the CPB2 partnership,which hopes to redevelop the property.

A March 18 workshop was postponed because a new city-commissioned report by Resurgance Engineering and Preservation detailing the history and current conditions of the property lacked estimates of restoration costs.

Jim Brady, who bought the 10-acre property with partners Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello from businessman Phineas Sprague Jr. in 2013, on Monday said the Resurgance report draws many of the same conclusions as one CPB2 commissioned from Becker Structural Engineers.

“There were minor discrepancies between the two, but they aligned and agreed with each other,” Brady said.

The workshop will outline how the property, developed first in the 1840s to build locomotives and equipment for the Grand Trunk Railroad, fits within the parameters of the city historic preservation ordinance.

The nomination must be approved by the Historic Preservation and Planning boards and by the City Council. Once placed in a historic preservation district, site development plans of the property would be subject to oversight by the Historic Preservation and Planning boards.

The workshop precedes a City Council vote to create new zoning for 12 acres of Portland Co. and state-owned land on the waterfront that Brady said is key to redeveloping the site.

The zoning changes were recommended by the Planning Board on Feb. 24, but have drawn opposition from neighborhood residents because of the potential for taller buildings that could obstruct views of the harbor.

Last fall, city Historic Preservation Manager Deb Andrews said Historic Preservation Board members agreed to hold off on any nomination until the zoning changes were resolved.

While the vote forwarding the nomination should take place after the City Council zoning vote, Brady said he is still unhappy the nomination will be discussed.

“Certainly it adds a whole level of subjectivity to the process, which is concerning for us, especially when we already believe in historic preservation,” he said of creating a preservation district.

No definitive redevelopment plans have been created, and Brady said the future of the site will emphasize its historic past, while recognizing the potential cost of renovating buildings that have been neglected for about 30 years.

The site is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and has been cited by Greater Portland Landmarks as a “Place in Peril.”

With portions of the property considered “in varying condition, between good and poor, depending upon the structure and the exact location within the structure,” according to the Resurgance report, Brady said the intention is to merge historical preservation with elements of the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan that was included in the city master plan about a decade ago.

“This site has the opportunity to create a unique and forward-looking development for Portland,” he said.

The April 1 hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. in City Hall Room 209.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.