Portland Regency owner withdraws proposal for hotel on Maine Wharf

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PORTLAND — An Old Port hotel owner has stopped pursuing plans to build a boutique waterfront hotel on a Commercial Street wharf.

In a July 10 letter to City Planner Bill Needelman, copied to several city officials, an attorney for Eric Cianchette informed Needelman that Cianchette’s Great Maine Wharf LLC would not pursue the Maine Wharf project at this time.

Attorney Joseph Stevens, of Perkins Olson, thanked the city for its cooperation and asked that the application process be discontinued.

Stevens, on Tuesday, said Cianchette has not abandoned the concept but is waiting to see what the city decides to do with a group of amendments being proposed by a coalition of Waterfront Central Zone property owners. 

Cianchette, who also owns the Portland Regency hotel in the Old Port, was seeking an amendment to zoning language that would allow him to build a 120-room boutique hotel with parking. The first floor would have been reserved for marine-dependent businesses. The project was estimated to cost $45 million. Cianchette also planned to reconstruct the pier, at a cost of about $10 million.

The wharf at 72 Commercial St. is behind the Dry Dock Restaurant and home to several businesses, including Morrison’s Maine Course, Three Brothers Lobster and the steamship agency Chase Leavitt. 

The Waterfront Central Zone includes strict guidelines for use and development. The zoning restricts non-marine use and prohibits hotels.

Cianchette, who submitted his plans in January, had hoped to get assurances from the City Council that his request had support before undertaking a lengthy Planning Board process. He presented the project to the council earlier this year, and had started working with planners.

Stevens said that Cianchette, who was not in town this week, decided to take the advice of planners who told him they’d like to take a more comprehensive look at the Waterfront Central Zone before making changes.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net