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'Coworking' space planned for fire-ravaged Bramhall Square building in Portland

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'Coworking' space planned for fire-ravaged Bramhall Square building in Portland

PORTLAND — A burned-out building in Bramhall Square could soon be hosting collaborative workspace for one-person businesses and entrepreneurs.

Developer Peter Bass purchased the former Binga's Wingas building at 795 Congress St. earlier this year. The property has been vacant since November 2008, when fire destroyed the popular chicken-wing restaurant.

Bass, who has developed unique living spaces in southern Maine – for example, live/work space for artists – said the so-called "coworking" concept he plans on Congress Street is popular in major cities and provides an alternative for people who would normally work from a home office or coffee shop. The two-story building would have a shared conference room, wifi and a kitchen.

Members could sign up to use the space for a few hours a week or regularly. Bass said the first floor will be an open concept, with desks and other office amenities. Users would have to supply their own computers. The second floor would have small, private offices for people looking for more permanent space.

"It's meant to foster a culture of cross-pollination," Bass explained. It also gives start-up businesses and "micro-entrepreneurs" a business address, a place to meet and an office setting coffee shops do not offer.

There is at least one other coworking space in the city, at 28 Maple St., called Wycwah, which is designed for "digital creatives." There is also a Portland Coworking Facebook page.

Bramhall Square is a prominent corner in the city and is also part of the Congress Street Historic District.

Because it is part of the district, the Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday, June 16, will review Bass's request to demolish the existing structure and build a new one. Deb Andrews, the city's Historic Preservation Program manager, said the former Binga's space is a historically "non-contributing" building.

Bass is proposing to build a modern-looking two-story building with a flat roof. A preliminary design shows the building curving to fit in to the square. The Historic Preservation Board will consider building materials and design in its review.

Bass will also have to get administrative approval from the Planning Department. He said he hopes to begin construction later this summer.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net