Portland pier owner proposes 150-ft. expansion

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PORTLAND — The owner of the Portland Regency Hotel has submitted plans to expand a waterfront pier at 68 Commercial St.

A company called Great Maine Wharf, which is owned by Eric Cianchette, is looking to extend the existing 500-foot, concrete pier behind the Dry Dock restaurant by 150 feet.

There are now two, two-story metal buildings on the 75-foot wide pier, which is between the Maine State Pier and Custom House Wharf. Tenants include Three Brothers Lobster, Morrison’s Maine Course and the Chase Leavitt Chart Room.

According to Great Maine’s plans, there are no buildings associated with the expansion, which, if approved, would likely begin over the winter. The project is estimated to cost $700,000.

Since there are no new structures associated with the expansion, City Planner Eric Giles said, the proposal will only require administrative review by city staff.

Giles said the city is still collecting comments from its departments heads and must await a recommendation from the Harbor Commission, which was expected to review the proposal in a workshop on Tuesday and schedule a public hearing in September. 

The pier extension will be in the general area used by Casco Bay Lines to turn around its ferries.

Casco Bay Lines Operations Manager Nick Mavadones said he met with the company last year to discuss the expansion, originally proposed to be 400 feet, which would have made it nearly as long as the Maine State Pier.

Mavodones, who is also Portland’s mayor, said he and the Casco Bay Lines ferry captains expressed concern about the 400-foot expansion.

“We need enough swing room to turn the car ferry,” Mavodones said, noting the 150-foot extension would allow for that. “They scaled it back.”

When reached on Monday, Cianchette’s son, Michael, said he could not discuss the project until talking to the “principals” involved, but indicated that commercial demand on the pier has been sluggish.

“There are a lot of vacancies now, because of the way the economy is,” Cianchette said.

Last year, Eric Cianchette put plans on hold to build a 100-room hotel on the same the pier until the city finalized changes to the Waterfront Central Zone – a process that is continuing.

“There are no current plans to continue with that project and this extension proposal is being pursued on its own merits,” Michael Cianchette said.

In an Aug. 5 letter to city planners, project engineer Owens McCullough, of Sebago Technics, said the expansion and rehabilitation would provide a safer, more accessible pier for emergency vehicles and other users; improved operating space for loading and off leading commercial boats, and maintaining the viability of the working waterfront.

It is unclear exactly which type of commercial boats would use the pier, but renderings on file at City Hall show tug boats alongside the proposed extension.

While the expansion was originally for a tug boat company, Michael Cianchette said that some shrimp boat owners have expressed interest in using the extended pier, but have been unable to sign leases, due to the uncertainty of federal regulations limiting their catch.

The tug boat company, meanwhile, has since taken space at the Maine State Pier, he said.

“The proposed pier extension and rehabilitation will offer the opportunity to increase future revenue that can be invested in maintaining the Maine Wharf for years to come,” McCullough wrote.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

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Lobster boats docked on the western wide of Maine Wharf, 68 Commercial St., Portland, which is being considered for a 150-foot extension for commercial boats.

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