Infrastructure work to begin at Thompson's Point in Portland
PORTLAND — Chris Thompson brought more than golden shovels to the party Friday.
He also brought the beer.
The shovels were for the ceremonial groundbreaking for $3.8 million of infrastructure needed to connect the city to the $110 million mixed-use Forefront at Thompson's Point along the Fore River.
The beer was for city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell and Maine Department of Transportation project manager Jeff Tweedie, who helped moved the proverbial mountains to get the project rolling.
"There is nothing like seeing holes in the ground," Thompson said.
The beer brand – Sierra Nevada – also marked the announcement of the first big event at the site, the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America tour, which arrives Aug. 1.
Thompson, the principal of Thompson's Point Development Co., was joined by partner Jed Troubh, Mayor Michael Brennan, City Manager Mark Rees and DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt to lift the ceremonial shovels and talk about the convergence of agencies making the redevelopment of the 32-acre parcel possible.
To access the project, the Thompson's Point Connector Road will be widened to three lanes, off ramps at Exit 5A on Interstate 295 will be widened, traffic light timing at Fore River Parkway will be adjusted to avert backups on the highway ramp, and pedestrian and emergency vehicle access from Sewall Street will be improved.
The area will also be linked to Portland Trails and work will be done on Congress Street to better control the flow of traffic.
The funding comes from a variety of sources, including $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency, $525,000 in DOT funding, $90,000 in federal transportation funds, and $1.68 million from the developers.
In addition, about $600,000 will be spent by the DOT to improve the grade crossing for railroad tracks used by the Amtrak Downeaster and freight traffic.
The city Planning Board approved the Forefront at Thompson Point master plan March 18, and Thompson said the plan is for phased-in construction of a hotel, arena, condominiums, restaurants and offices.
"We can build things in sequence, but the plan is to do infrastructure as early as possible."
Some restoration is part of the plan, Thompson said, including a brick office building that has been used by Suburban Propane (which will move to Riverside Drive after buying a parcel of city-owned land), and a 14,000-square-foot structure that was moved from the city's old Union Station more than 50 years ago.
The relocated structure will become an outdoor event space that will host the Beer Camp Across America tour, a movable liquid feast involving local micro-brewers.
The camp also will showcase Sierra Nevada with Allagash Brewing Co., making craft beers and allowing the public to see and participate in the process.
Thompson said he is also lining up tenants for the building that will be mostly occupied by the Circus Conservatory of America, which is expected to open in 2015. Mercy Hospital is expected to be one of the tenants.