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Law firm wants tax break for move to Portland waterfront

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Law firm wants tax break for move to Portland waterfront

PORTLAND — Discussion of a deal months in the works between the city and a prominent law firm is expected to enter the public arena this week, when a City Council committee debates granting a tax break to help move the firm to a waterfront building.

Pierce Atwood, currently at One Monument Square, wants to move its offices to 258 Commercial St. The five-story building there, now used for storage, would need extensive renovations to become an office building.

The law firm, working with building owner Waterfront Maine (a subsidiary of Waterfront New York), plans to turn the top four floors into office space and renovate the first floor for marine use, as required by city zoning.

The renovations are expected to add $12 million to the city's tax base. In return, Pierce Atwood is seeking a 20-year tax increment financing deal that would result in a $2.7 million tax break, according to a May 6 memorandum from city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell.

Pierce Atwood's current lease expires next March. The law firm has been considering moving for a few years, and a spokesman for the firm in March said it has been looking at locations in Portland and in South Portland.

"We're working collaboratively with the city to try and move this project forward to benefit everyone," Christopher Batio, the firm's marketing and business development director said this week.

The firm's now uses about 60,000 square feet. It would gain about 10,000 square feet at the Cumberland Self-Storage building.

The city's Community Development Committee has held several closed-door sessions during the past few months to discuss the proposal. The committee is expected to discuss the proposed deal in a public session on Wednesday, May 12, and make a recommendation to the full City Council.

At that meeting, the committee will also consider a request for a parking rate break at the city-owned Portland Fish Pier. The deal would give Pierce Atwood 70 parking spots for 10 years at the current market rate of $80 a month per space.

The City Council would have to amend an existing Waterfront TIF Development District Program to add the 258 Commercial St. to the district.

In addition to renovating the warehouse, the developer would invest $250,000 in wharf improvements. According to Mitchell's memo, the developer is "evaluating how to approach meeting the City Green Building Code" requirements for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project; a waiver request has been filed.

Waterfront Maine, which owns Fort Andross in Brunswick and manages properties in Portland, is owned by Coleman Burke. Burke runs Waterfront New York Realty Corp. and owns a warehouse complex along the Hudson River in Manhattan that houses storage units and the Terminal Stores.

Calls to representatives of Waterfront Maine were not returned.

The Community Development Committee meets at 5 p.m. May 12 in Room 209 at City Hall.

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