Maine College of Art gets $250K to complete restoration of former Porteous building in Portland

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PORTLAND — Maine College of Art recently received more than $250,000 in grants to complete the renovation of the former Porteous Building on Congress Street.

The grants will provide the capstone funding for a $10 million initiative begun in 2004, which raised $4.3 million in new endowment funds and $5.7 million for the Porteous project.

“What a wonderful moment in MECA’s history,” college President Jim Baker said.

The Maine Arts Commission provided $15,000 to make MECA’s Osher Hall, a 112-seat lecture facility, handicapped accessible and the Quimby Family Foundation supported the overall restoration project with a $40,000 gift.

The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation issued a $200,000 challenge to the college to raise the final funds to complete renovations on the third and fourth floors. The Sewall Challenge requires the college to raise an additional $300,000.

Once renovations are complete, all of the college’s academic studios and administrative offices will be in the nearly 158,000-square-foot building in the heart of Portland’s Downtown Arts District. The Photography Department, which is in the recently sold Baxter Building, will eventually be on the third and fourth floors of the Porteous building.

MECA Spokeswoman Jessica Tomlinson said a May 13 event will be held at the college to celebrate the completion of the project. 

The nearly five-story, Beaux Arts-style building at 522 Congress St. was built in 1904. It housed the Porteous, Mitchell & Braun department store until 1991 and was acquired by the college in 1993.

In 1996, the building was one of only 24 projects in the country to participate in the inaugural Energy Star Showcase Building program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to preserving an historic building, more than 200 truckloads of debris removed from the building was recycled. Energy-efficient heating and lighting, skylights and a state-of-the-art heating and ventilation system were installed to save energy and reduce pollution. 

“This vision began 15 years ago under the leadership of Roger Gilmore with the purchase of the building,” Baker said. “Now every program and administrative department is in, or connected to, the Porteous Building.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or