Portland waterfront redevelopments include new hotels

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PORTLAND — Waterfront lodging will grow if plans for two new hotels are successful.

West Elm Hotels plan to build a hotel as part of the early stage of redevelopment on the 10-acre site of the former Portland Co. at 58 Fore St.

Farther west, redevelopment plans at the former Rufus Deering Co. lumber yard at 383 Commercial St. could include a 128-room luxury hotel and conference center in the first two phases.

The change in the master development plan for the former lumber yard was discussed Aug. 1 in a Planning Board workshop, without any action on the request to change plans.

Portland Co. owners CPB2 largely declined comment on adding West Elm to the development mix.

“We share the vision of connecting travelers to the daily life of Portland by focusing on a unique experience, highlighting its local character and authenticity, and delivering one-of-a-kind amenities and services modern travelers crave most,” Casey Prentice of CPB2 said in an Aug. 1 press release. 

In redeveloping the former industrial complex largely used for railroad manufacturing, Prentice and partners Jim Brady and Kevin Costello are working as the Portland Foreside Development Co.

For West Elm, which also operates a new furniture and home accessory store at 164 Middle St., the 58 Fore St. property will be the sixth foray into the hotel business. The company, which is owned by Williams Sonoma, plans to open hotels in Detroit, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis, as well as Savannah, Georgia, and Oakland, California, according to its website.

In a press release, Portland Foreside Development said the first phase of redevelopment is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2018. The hotel, retail space and a marina are expected to be built first.

The master development plan for the former Portland Co. was approved by the Planning Board in December 2016. The marina got intial approval from the Portland Harbor Commission last month.

On Aug. 4, Joe Dasco, speaking for Deering Property Redevelopment LLC, said the shift to a hotel on Commercial Street was made because of interest from several companies and the acquisition of the building at 54 York St., which has been home to the Baxter Academy charter school.

Dasco said the building will become a conference center, linked to the new hotel, which will supplant more than 70 planned housing units and also have a restaurant.

“(The) demand is strong and affords us the opportunity to build out Phase 1 and 2, either together or one right after the other,” Dasco said.

The school is expected to move to 185 Lancaster St. in Bayside.

The Planning Board has not approved the master development plan that is a template for how the 2.4 acres may be redeveloped, but Dasco said the second and third phases still call for more than 200 condominiums, with 114 of those coming in the second phase.

“This makes the site more attractive from the get-go by building out more of it,” Dasco said. He declined to identify who will operate the hotel, but said its presence with the convention center will also add to the public-access component of redevelopment.

Rufus Deering was a Commercial Street fixture for more than 170 years before it closed in December 2016. The retail operations were sold to Eldredge Lumber and shifted to Presumpscot Street. A kitchen remodeling center was also sold to Eldredge and remains open at 75 West Commercial St.

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

Revised sketches of the first phase of redevelopment at the former Rufus Deering Co. on Commercial Street in Portland show how a 128-room hotel would replace planned condominiums.

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.