Yarmouth developers behind purchase of prime Portland waterfront property

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PORTLAND — One of the buyers of The Portland Co. complex on the city’s eastern waterfront is Jim Brady, a well-known Yarmouth developer behind such projects as the planned boutique hotel in the former Portland Press Herald building.

Brady on Monday said he is a major partner in a group that purchased the 10-acre waterfront lot at the bottom of Munjoy Hill from Phineas Sprague last week.

The other major member of the purchasing entity is The Prentice Organization, which is the owner of the Chebeague Island Inn. Its operating partners are Yarmouth resident Casey Prentice, general manager of the inn, and his father, Dick Prentice, a partner in Pierce Atwood’s real estate group.

The purchasing entity is known as CPB2 LLC. Brady said a purchase price would not be disclosed, and it would be “premature” to discuss development plans at this point.

“There are no immediate plans to develop the site,” Brady said. “We look forward to working with the city and its planning staff to see through the vision that was adopted by the City Council in the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, which envisions a mixed-use development.”

The Portland City Council adopted the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan in 2002, and amended it in 2004 and 2006. It encourages “mixed-use developments in a pedestrian-friendly, urban environment.”

The Portland Co. complex, originally the home of a steel manufacturing facility for the railroad, is the only private property in the study area with direct water access, according to the plan. It calls for the “reuse and sensitive rehabilitation of historic structures” on the property, which is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and “the continuation of boat yard and yacht support services.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Casey Prentice said Monday.

Like Brady, Prentice said it’s too early to discuss specific plans. However, given that both Brady and the Prentices are heavily involved in the hospitality sector, it’s a safe bet that the property could one day be the site of a new hotel, even if it’s 15-20 years down the road, Prentice said.

“It’s safe to say that, but it’s not firm yet. There’s a lot of new hotel supply hitting the market right now. That will all be part of the economic study we do,” Prentice said.

There are currently two hotels under construction in Portland that will add 255 rooms. Brady’s planned redevelopment of the former Portland Press Herald building would include another 110 rooms.

The acquisition of The Portland Co. property was timed to coincide with Sprague’s plans to acquire land on the city’s western waterfront, where he has City Council approval to build a “world-class boatyard,” Brady said.

Following the sale of the The Portland Co. complex on July 29, Sprague acquired two parcels with a total of about 23 acres, just west of the Casco Bay Bridge, on July 31 and Aug. 2.

“One thing that is important to note is that nothing will change (at The Portland Co.) for the short term,” Brady said, noting that Sprague has a long-term operating lease that will allow him to continue to run Portland Yacht Services and the marina facility. The complex will also continue to host the Portland Flower Show, Maine Boatbuilders Show and Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad.

In a press release Monday, Sprague confirmed he has finalized purchase-and-sale agreements with Pan Am Railways and Unitil for the land on West Commercial Street. The combined properties will become the new home of Canal Landing, an expanded version of Portland Yacht Services, that will be able to accommodate the repair of much larger commercial vessels up to 1,500 tons, including tugboats and barges.

At its current Fore Street location, Portland Yacht Services is limited to repairing vessels no larger than 44 tons. Sprague said the existing 10-acre property, which includes 15 buildings and 1,000 feet of waterfront, is simply out of room.

He also said the expansion of Portland Yacht Services will provide a new home port and regular appearances in Portland by a fleet of schooners that are used for “classrooms on the sea” as part of the Ocean Classroom Foundation.

“We are very excited that this plan is moving forward,” Greg Belanger, executive director of the Ocean Classroom Foundation, said in the press release. “Right now, we are forced to move around from port to port, but we have always envisioned having one home port for our fleet.”

Brady, a former Olympian who won a silver medal in sailing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is the former president of Olympia Development, the development arm of The Olympia Cos., which bid on the high-profile opportunity to redevelop Portland’s Maine State Pier, a project that ultimately never happened.

He is also the developer behind the plans to redevelop the former Portland Press Herald building on Congress Street into a boutique hotel that will be known as The Press Hotel.

Brady said Monday that he plans to close on the former newspaper building by the end of the year and begin construction on the hotel project during the first quarter of 2014. He said the construction should take a year, and the hotel should be open in time for Portland’s 2015 tourism season.

Sidebar Elements

The Portland Co. complex sits on a 10-acre site on Portland’s eastern waterfront. It includes several brick buildings dating back to the late 19th century.