Thompson's Point development in Portland gets FAME infusion

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PORTLAND — Redevelopment is proceeding at Thompson’s Point with a boost from the Finance Authority of Maine.

Forefront Commons 1, led by Chris Thompson and Jed Troubh, received a $495,000 direct loan from FAME on Aug. 16, according to an agency press release.

Thompson last week said the loan will be used to restore a historic building, known as the “Brick Burb,” that is now used as offices for Suburban Propane.

“We are happy to help facilitate this transaction to help Thompson’s Point continue its impressive growth and position itself for long-term success,” FAME Board Chairman Jay Violette said in the press release.

The loan will help create and retain 12 jobs, the press release added.

Suburban Propane will be moving to 636 Riverside St., where Forefront Commons is overseeing construction of the new operations facility on what had been city-owned land.

Thompson said the two-story Brick Burb, about 110 years old, will be renovated for more office space. The surrounding buildings will be demolished and replaced with two new buildings and surface parking covering 3.3 acres.

One of the buildings will provide new space for an existing company at the site, but Thompson declined to name the tenants.

The new surface parking will become a garage as other portions of Thompson’s Point are redeveloped, he said.

In the near term, Thompson said preliminary site work for the new Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine has begun, and he expects construction of a new hotel to start later this fall.

Marriott International will operate the 148-room hotel as part of its Tribute brand.

“It is really a boutique brand, it allows us a design flexibility, sort of the best of both worlds,” Thompson said, adding he expects the hotel to open in spring 2020, about a year after the Children’s Museum.

It has been almost a decade since the redevelopment effort took shape; the city Planning Board approved a master development plan for the acreage in 2014.

The Brick North building is occupied by companies including Cellardoor Winery, the International Cryptozoology Museum and Bissell Brothers Brewery. The Brick South building is available for event rentals.

The site, once a transportation and marine freight hub, also features summer concerts and winter ice skating.

The first phase of development is covered by a credit enhancement agreement with the city inside a tax increment finance zone where increased property valuations help fund transportation projects.

Last year, the TIF-funded transit improvements to the Congress Street corridor included improvements to bus stops and other amenities. The 30-year credit enhancement agreement returns 75 percent of increased valuations to developers in years 1 through 10, 60 percent in years 11-15, 50 percent in years 16-20, and 40 percent from years 21-30.

Developers have also received more than $100,000 in federal funding to remediate contamination in the area as part of the development. A $2 million mix of state and federal funding help pay for improvements to link the development to Interstate 295. Developers paid $1.68 million for the work.

Thompson said he and Troubh are pleased with the business development at Thompson’s Point and how concerts and skating provide seasonal lures. Yet they will not be hurried to complete what has been estimated to be a $110 million project.

“We look at it this way: it is a 30-acre peninsula, the size of the Old Port,” Thompson said. “To do it right is not to do it fast, you have to take your steps in a measured way.”

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

A loan from FAME will help fund redevelopment of this Thompson’s Point building after Suburban Propane moves to Riverside Street in Portland.

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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.