Portland Co. developers propose new turn for historic building

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PORTLAND — A proposed revision to the redevelopment of the former Portland Co. property at 58 Fore St. could also lead to redrawing its historic district boundaries.

A change in boundaries to the historic district encompassing about half the site would require City Council approval.

On Wednesday, the city’s Historic Preservation Board will hold its first workshop on a new plan to move Building 12, originally a storehouse for patterns when the 10-acre complex was home to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad.

“The proposed positioning of Building 12 would make the historic resource highly visible and far more visually prominent,” Project Manager David Senus of Woodard & Curran said on behalf of the Portland Foreside Development Co. in an Oct. 24 letter to city Historic Preservation Manager Deb Andrews.

The original master development plan called for Building 12 to be moved from its spot adjacent to Fore Street while the building next door was razed. Building 12 is considered by the board to be a contributing structure to the site’s history.

Developers sought to move the building because it would be have been substantially obscured by the grade of the road planned to connect Fore and Thames streets in the new development.

The initial plan had the building shifting toward Thames Street.

Developers are now seeking to shift the building about 50 feet south, where it would not be attached to any other building, and across the access road from the rest of the complex.

The building would also be turned 180 degrees, so the side now facing the Old Port would face the rest of the redeveloped complex, Andrews said.

Senus said a new location will allow the building to be seen all the way down Thames Street, but maintain the building’s original intent of being placed away from the rest of the manufacturing because the patterns stored inside were flammable.

A revised location would also allow better views from the water, and would likely change reuse of the building from office to retail space, Senus said.

“This will allow greater public experience of both the exterior … and interior of the building,” he said.

Andrews said city staff generally supports the revised location, but there are reservations.

“To rotate Building 12 is to disregard its role in the complex and therefore diminish its integrity,” she said.

Rotating the building would turn the side that fronted the rest of the manufacturing facilities away from the complex, although that side has a series of large doors used by employees to retrieve stored patterns.

Because the opposite side of the building had no openings, creating new ones for access would “constitute further manipulation and create a false sense of history,” Andrews said.

Andrews said staff also had misgivings about shifting the “Portland Co.” sign painted on the building’s western wall, even though it is not a part of the original structure.

“Simply recreating the sign on the opposite side does not seem like an appropriate substitute,” she said.

Andrews said staff is also wary of any plans to add dormers or canopies to the building after it is shifted.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Developers are seeking permission to change the proposed relocation of Building 12 at the former Portland Co. complex, placing it closer to the waterfront.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.