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Brewery owner floats convention center, hotel, culinary school for Portland waterfront

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Brewery owner floats convention center, hotel, culinary school for Portland waterfront

PORTLAND — The owner of Shipyard Brewing Co. is seeking developers interested in building a convention center, hotel and culinary school at his Newbury Street property.

Fred Forsley owns a majority of the block where the brewery sits, between Hancock, Newbury and Mountfort streets behind the Marriott Residence Inn, which fronts Fore Street.

"We can build over and around without displacing the brewery," Forsley said this week. The height limit in the Eastern Waterfront Zone is 65 feet, or about six stories.

He said the property can accommodate up to 600,000 square feet of building, and he envisions about 100,000 square feet of that as a convention center.

Forsley also wants to build a hotel, along with space for a four-year culinary arts and hospitality program and possibly condominiums.

"At the end of the day, I'm not the developer, but I think there are enough developers out there interested in this kind of thing," Forsley said.

He said he has had preliminary discussions with city officials, with local business leaders and with some developers. He has also approached local post-secondary education schools about the culinary/hospitality program.

Forsley said that while Maine's community colleges offer good culinary programs, none of them are four-year programs.

"This is not a huge city, but it's an attraction and the food scene is great," he said. "Everybody either wants to come to Portland or loves to come to Portland."

Forsley said he is confident the city can support another large hotel, and needs a mid-sized convention center.

"The (Cumberland County) Civic Center is not a convention center," Forsley, a trustee of the civic center, asserted. "It's set up for sporting events, and other entertainment-type events."

A convention center with an attached hotel is ideal, he said, "would attract conventions that are not coming here right now." He said his project would offer views of the waterfront from its upper floors.

Forsley said he would like to see his proposal realized within five years, and would probably seek tax increment financing and other tax breaks for development.

Forsley said a developer would also have to work with the city to maximize development potential for the site, including looking at height and density allowances.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katebucklin.