Portland Planning Board OKs Old Port hotel, North Deering bank

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PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a new hotel development for the former Jordan’s Meat property in the Old Port.

Developer Mark Woglom, president of New Hampshire-based Opechee Construction Corp, said interior demolition has already begun at the 207-209 block on Fore Street and expects the former hot dog factory will be completely removed within the next few weeks.

Woglom has formed a new company, Old Port Hospitality, for the project. He said sidewalks around the property – which is bounded by Fore, India and Middle streets and Franklin Arterial – are expected to remain open throughout construction, except during certain phases of the demolition.

The site is being cleared to make way for a six-story, 122-room Hampton Inn that will also have a 7,000-square-foot Sebago Brewing Co. restaurant with outdoor cafe-style seating and 12 top-floor residential condominiums. The project is expected to be completed as soon as next summer. 

The building plan approved by the board for the 1.75-acre site has been updated since it was first introduced March 9. Windows have been added to a secondary entrance and stairway for hotel patrons and residents on Market Street, and a Franklin Arterial-facing wall has been made more pedestrian friendly. 

During the public hearing, resident Markos Miller, a member of the Franklin Arterial Committee, complimented the changes, but suggested the city go further and explore narrowing the Franklin-Fore Street intersection and expanding sidewalks.

“There’s a lot of road there that is not being used,” said Miller, who also convinced Woglom to agree to preserve the Jordan’s Meat sign.

But resident Robert Haines criticized the parking plan, which would provide about 90 surface-level spaces for hotel guests and condo residents, but none for restaurant patrons.

Instead of providing the necessary parking, the developer agreed to give the city $50,000 to expand and improve on-street parking opportunities, mostly along Franklin Arterial. The Ocean Gateway parking garage could also be utilized, Woglom said. 

Representatives of the state’s unionized iron workers and laborers spoke in support of the project, calling on the developer to hire local workers at with competitive wages and benefits.

John Evans, a representative of unionize iron workers, said “I think the city of Portland needs this – the state of Maine needs this. I hope to have the opportunity to build this hotel.”

However, Haines contended the plan “bordered on illegality,” since the necessary code changes that would allow that arrangement, though narrowly approved by the Planning Board, have not been approved by the City Council. 

“The parking for this stinks,” Haines said. “It stinks like a load of fish that didn’t get unloaded in time.”

Although planning administrators said the board had authority over parking issues, board members agreed with Haines and required the developer’s to secure at least 10 parking spaces, by lease or purchase, in a nearby parking garage. 

“Although we can stretch the language, I’m a little uncomfortable doing it,” board Chairman Bill Hall said.  

Since Woglom intends to further develop the India Street and Middle Street sides of the lot, the board granted waivers requiring brick sidewalks on Middle Street and reduced the landscaping for the surface parking lot.

If the second phase of development does not move forward in two to four years, the developer will pay to replace the asphalt sidewalk with brick and improve the landscaping to meet city standards.

“This is a good project,” board member David Silk said. “These are little things that over time make the big difference.”

Bangor Savings Bank

The board also approved a 3,200-square-foot Bangor Savings Bank at the current Espo’s restaurant site at 320 Allen Ave.

The bank, which will be next to a new Walgreens at Allen and Washington avenues, will have two drive-through teller lanes and an ATM lane.

To limit the impact on the nearby residents, bank officials agreed to shut off the parking lot lights within an hour after closing. The approved hours of the building, which will also contain 2,000 square feet of office space, are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

In addition to paying $4,500 for pedestrian and bike improvements in the area, bank officials also agreed to monitor and address traffic issues. The new use is expected to triple morning and evening peak-hour traffic, from 16 and 30 trips, respectively, to 61 and 88 trips.

Espo’s will be demolished to make way for the new building.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]