Portland waterfront property owners seek zoning changes

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PORTLAND — The owners of the Portland Company complex at 58 Fore St. are seeking two zoning changes that could alter the nature of redevelopment at the 10-acre site.

City officials received the 91-page application from Portland-based engineering firm Woodard & Curran on Friday, Aug. 22. The application details owner CPB2 LLC’s request to extend an existing adjacent mixed-use B6 zone and the Eastern Waterfront Port Zone.

The zoning changes would also include a state-owned strip of land now used by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum to run excursion trains, and submerged acreage used by Portland Yacht Services.

The land, situated between Fore Street and the Fore River, is now entirely zoned as a Waterfront Special Use area designated to promote marine-related use.

CPB2 principals include Jim Brady, Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello. The company bought the Portland Company complex of about 10 acres from Phineas Sprague Jr. in two phases concluding in July 2013.

The application, prepared by Woodard & Curran senior engineer David Senus, notes there are no immediate plans for redevelopment, and a master plan would follow the zoning change, which requires City Council approval following a Planning Board recommendation.

Prentice said Tuesday the developers are eager to work with the city and understand the unique and historic qualities of the property.

“We need a zone in order to know what we should be planning,” he said.

A shift to the B6 zone would affect two lots containing buildings dating to the late 1840s. According to a Sutherland Conservation & Consulting report commissioned by the city Historic Preservation Office, the complex was developed to build locomotives and provide support operations for the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad, which linked the city to Montreal.

In a March 31 letter to Historic Preservation Director Deb Andrews, Maine Historic Preservation Commission architectural historian Christi Mitchell confirmed the property is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

The complex’s industrial use continued until 1982, when the foundry closed.

The provisions of the B6 zone allow mixed use residential and retail development, but the area is not currently protected by a city historical district designation that guides redevelopment.

The lack of the designation concerned Greater Portland Landmarks Executive Director Hillary Bassett, who added she had not had time to look over the full application.

“We feel any zoning change would need to be very carefully considered in terms of public interest,” Bassett said Tuesday.

Prentice noted the city originally hoped to extend the B6 zone about a decade ago as part of the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan. 

“We are very much excited to work with the city and kind of complete their master plan,” he said. “it is a pretty spectacular area.”

Portland Company buildings now house several businesses and nonprofits, and are also used for annual boat and flower shows, beer festivals and other gatherings.

Future development will likely not include the remnant to the property’s railroad history. On Tuesday, Maine Narrow Gauge Executive Director Donnie Carroll said the organization’s planned move to Gray is progressing.

The museum has secured a right-of-way needed to run trains on abandoned rail beds near Route 1oo in Gray and is considering design options for what could be a $6 million museum and rail operation to open in 2017, he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

CPB2 LLC, the owners of the Portland Company Complex at 58 Fore St. would like to extend adjacent mixed-use zones to 10 acres of their land and 13 acres of submerged land. CPB2 principal Casey Prentice said the company values the historic nature of the property. “We need a zone in order to know what we should be planning,” he said.

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.