From hot to not: Sussman, Hampton Inn projects put on hold in Portland

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PORTLAND — Two proposed redevelopment projects in the India Street neighborhood have taken dramatic turns in the past week.

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman put plans on hold to construct a 60-foot-tall condominium complex between Hampshire and Franklin streets.

And the Hampton Inn on Fore Street – including an adjacent parking lot that was to be the site of condos, offices and retail space – has been sold to Chatham Lodging Trust, a Florida-based real estate company.

“A variety of factors make the proposed condominium project not quite ready yet, so we are hitting the ‘pause’ button for now,” Sussman said in a statement Wednesday.

Tom Federle, a real-estate lawyer who represents Sussman’s project, Hampshire Street Properties, said “it wasn’t clear if the cost of building (the complex) would likely be returned.

“Given the totality of considerations, we decided let’s not launch now,” he said.

While he didn’t go into detail, one of those considerations appears to be a missing piece.

Sussman, who is also majority owner of the parent company of The Portland Press Herald, and husband of 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, owns six properties on the block, five of which were part of plans for the proposed complex.

But it would have had to been built “basically, around” another property Sussman doesn’t own at 40 Hampshire St., according to Federle.

“Still, that alone wasn’t the determinant (of the decision),” he said.

Allison Brown, president of the India Street Neighborhood Association, said she and other residents are frustrated by that decision.

“We’re disappointed. I don’t think it’s fair to the neighborhood,” she said. “People here have given a lot of time to this project, and now it’s not going to happen.”

With more than half of the 24 condo units in the complex already sold, there’s no reason to put the project on hold, she said.

“I’d like to know what else Donald is going to do with (the properties). It doesn’t make any sense to me. The fact is, (the project) has been shelved,” she said.

A few blocks away, it’s unclear what the future holds for Phase 2 development plans at the former Jordans’ Meats plant property.

Before selling the Hampton Inn property, which includes the Sebago Brewing Co. storefront and Portside Condominiums, for $28 million, Opechee Construction Corp. had postponed further development of the site after a prospective tenant pulled out.

New owner Chatham isn’t saying whether it will sell the one-acre parcel to another developer or try to develop the site on its own.

“We like the optionality of the property,” Chatham Chief Financial Officer Dennis Craven said.

Chatham, a publicly owned real estate investment trust, owns interest in more than 80 hotels along the East Coast. While it sometimes has developed properties in the past, it has never developed a multi-use building, Craven said.

Any plans to develop the site would probably require Chatham to apply for new approvals from the city’s Planning Board, according to Craven. The board had previously given Opechee its approval in August.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

PORTLAND — Residents of Portland’s India Street neighborhood will have to wait a little longer for much-anticipated progress on two commercial real-estate developments.

On Jan. 16, billionaire hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman announced that he was putting plans on hold to construct a 60-foot-tall condominium complex along Hampshire, Newbury and Franklin streets.

And the Hampton Inn on Fore Street – including an adjacent parking lot that was to be the site of condos, offices and retail space – has been sold to Chatham Lodging Trust, a Florida-based real estate company.

“A variety of factors make the proposed condominium project not quite ready yet, so we are hitting the ‘pause’ button for now,” Sussman said in a written statement.

Tom Federle, a real-estate lawyer who represents Sussman’s project, Hampshire Street Properties, said “it wasn’t clear if the cost of building (the complex) would likely be returned.

“Given the totality of considerations, we decided let’s not launch now,” he said.

While he didn’t go into detail, one of those considerations appears to be a missing piece.

Sussman, who is also majority owner of the parent company of The Portland Press Herald, and husband of 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, owns six properties on the block, five of which were part of plans for the proposed complex.

But it would have had to been built “basically, around” another property Sussman doesn’t own at 36 Hampshire St., according to Federle.

“Still, that alone wasn’t the determinant (of the decision),” he said. “We had been deliberating for the past couple months, and finally said, ‘let’s take a breath’ and make sure we’re doing the best project possible.”

Allison Brown, president of the India Street Neighborhood Association, said she and other residents are frustrated by that decision.

Much change is in the air, with construction of the 94-apartment Bay House development underway on India Street and several planning and historical studies of the neighborhood about to begin.

“We’re disappointed. I don’t think it’s fair to the neighborhood,” Brown said. “People here have given a lot of time to this project, and now it’s not going to happen.”

Since more than half of the 24 market-rate condo units in the complex were already sold, there’s no reason to put the project on hold, she said.

“I’d like to know what else Donald is going to do with (the properties). It doesn’t make any sense to me. The fact is, (the project) has been shelved,” she said.

Federle said he understands the frustration.

“The neighborhood’s been generally supportive, and we appreciate the relationship with them … But I don’t think all is lost. We’re going to stay in tune and re-engage with (residents), and are hopeful that we’ll get a project that may be even better.”

A few blocks away, it’s unclear what the future holds for Phase 2 development plans at the former Jordans’ Meats plant property.

Chatham’s $28 million purchase of the property, which includes the Sebago Brewing Co. storefront and Portside Condominiums, was announced in a Jan. 8 press release. Previous owner Opechee Construction Corp. had reportedly postponed further development of the site, and now Chatham isn’t saying whether it will sell the one-acre parcel to another developer or try to develop the site independently.

“We like the optionality of the property,” Chatham Chief Financial Officer Dennis Craven said last week.

Chatham, a publicly owned real estate investment trust, owns interest in a total of 74 hotels along the east and west coasts. While it sometimes has developed properties in the past, it has never developed a multi-use building, Craven said.

Any plans to develop the site would probably require Chatham to apply for new approvals from the city’s Planning Board, according to Craven. The board had previously given Opechee its approval in August.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg confirmed last week that a new owner of a site such as the Hampton Inn property would have to at least provide the board with documentation showing the owner’s financial and operational capabilities.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

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