Economics vs. history: Portland board, landlord battle over storefront

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PORTLAND — A landlord is appealing the Historic Preservation Board’s denial of his application to install a door on his Exchange Street building.

Joseph Soley, who owns 10 Exchange St., applied last fall to install a door that would allow customers to walk directly from Exchange Street into the store that had been rented by clothing and apparel retailer Namaste.

Existing access to the building, which previously housed The Movies on Exchange, is via an arcade-type hallway entrance.

In his application, Soley wrote that “without direct access, afforded to all other competing stores, our tenant will vacate and the store, like others, similarly, will be empty.”

But the Historic Preservation Board, which was charged 15 years ago with upholding the city’s historic preservation ordinance, denied Soley’s application because on the grounds it failed to meet the standards for review of alterations within the ordinance rules.

Namaste has now left the building. On Monday, the business’s phone number rang with no answer and the store was closed, with stacked boxes visible through the windows. It was unclear whether Namaste has gone out of business or is moving to a different location.

Soley did not respond to several requests for comment, but he has appealed the Historic Preservation Board’s decision to the Planning Board.

In his original application, Soley indicated that “all retailers require, for occupancy, that (the) storefront has direct opening to (the) sidewalk/street for retail survival in disastrous market at present and predicable future.”

According to a letter sent to Soley, the Historic Preservation Board members were unanimous in their view that the bay windows at 10 Exchange St. property are historic and probably original to the building, which was built in 1866. The board even speculated that “the subject storefront is one of the last remaining unaltered storefronts along this section of Exchange Street.”

The board also cited the applicant’s alleged failure to fully explore alternative solutions to removing the window and replacing it with a door.

In his application, Soley indicated he would replace the window with a salvaged door from another property, which would maintain the historic appearance of the storefront.

But the board stated that the door Soley proposed was “of a style not found during this period of construction (1866).”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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Landlord Joseph Soley wanted to replace the bay windows at 10 Exchange St. with a door, so shoppers at Namaste could enter from the street instead of through a hallway in the building. His proposal was rejected by the Historic Preservation Board and the tenant has moved out.

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