A Portland developer wants to build Maine’s tallest building

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. How about a piping-hot cup of news?

What we’re talking about

A plot owned by East Brown Cow Management in downtown Portland, where the developer hopes to build the tallest building in Maine.  (Jake Bleiberg | BDN)

A plot owned by East Brown Cow Management in downtown Portland, where the developer hopes to build the tallest building in Maine. (Jake Bleiberg | BDN)

A local developer wants to give Portland’s skyline more of a big-city look by adding a 23-story skyscraper, which would be Maine’s tallest occupied building by far.

Tim Soley, president of East Brown Cow Management, which owns 16 downtown properties, aims to put up the residential building in the Old Port in the next few years. The building would surpass the height of the state’s current tallest inhabited building, Portland’s 16-story Franklin Towers, and sit on a plot of land at the intersection of Union Street and Patton Court.

“The vision is about the urbanization of Portland,” he said. “People are moving here … not just because of the natural landscape, but also because of the urban landscape. And that’s something that needs to be nurtured and enhanced.”

His proposal — which is very early in the planning process and has not officially been presented to the city — does have obstacles. At 23 stories, the building likely would be more than 250 feet tall, which is at least twice the limit of 125 feet that Portland set in that part of downtown.

But that cap could change, according Jeff Levine, Portland’s Planning and Urban Development director.

Changes to height restrictions might be recommended as part of Portland’s rewriting of its comprehensive plan, the document municipal planners use to manage real estate development across the city, he said. Soley’s company also could request a specific change to the zoning, which would require approval of both the Planning Board and City Council, Levine said.

East Brown Cow already owns the mostly open lot in question — which is immediately north of the Hyatt Place hotel, also on company land — and has been talking informally with the city during the past year about the project, Soley told BDN Portland. The building is part of his company’s 10-year plan to develop a series of properties in the area, which includes already completed improvements to a nearby parking lot and multimillion-dollar renovations to the adjacent Canal Plaza, he said.

Portland is at the point in its development where the city is ready to start growing vertically, Levine said — though he acknowledged some may be wary of taller buildings, in part because they see Franklin Towers as architecturally unattractive.

The idea also comes on the heels of several neighborhood disputes about large developments — in some cases, resulting in lawsuits or referendums.

[MORE: Portland wants another 15,000 people by 2030. What do its residents want?]

Asked about Soley’s plan, Levine said, “It’s not a bad site to have more development. My general thought is that if we are going to grow in a sustainable way we need to decide where height makes sense, and clearly downtown is one of the places.”

Specifics of the plan may change, but Soley said he hopes to have construction underway within four or five years. He hasn’t hired an architect yet, and the company has only begun to look at how the structure would affect features of city life, such as light in the downtown area.

When asked what would go in the building, the developer said there’s just one option.

“The only investments that can support that type of building at this point are residential in nature,” he said.

Planning Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Boepple said that she was aware of Soley’s plan, but declined to comment on it specifically because it had not been officially presented to the board. — Jake Bleiberg

RELATED: Here’s how Maine’s tallest buildings compare to other tall things

ICYMI

What drives Maine sex traffickers’ inhumanity — Danielle McLean writes:

On the morning of March 28, 2013, a Portland woman was walking to work in Westbrook. By the afternoon, two men were trying to force her to walk a busy city block in Boston and charge men $50 to $200 for sexual favors in their cars.

“I think I got myself into trouble,” she texted a friend on the way to a busy Boston block at 6:09 p.m. Seconds later: “I’m scared.” About three hours later: “I just want to kill myself.”

She realized she had been lied to and manipulated by the two men, Fritz Blanchard and Samuel Gravely, who that morning had asked her to join them — along with another woman and teenager — on what they’d described as a sightseeing trip to Boston, according to court documents. In reality, they were forcing the woman into a sex trafficking ring.

I survived swimming with Wessie, the giant missing snake — The BDN’s Erin Rhoda competed in the triathlon last weekend that took place in Riverbank Park. Spoiler: She did not see/get eaten by a giant snake.

South Portland athletic director says new national anthem protocol has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick — The Forecaster’s Alex Acquisto reports:

Athletic Director Todd Livingston added a new directive this year for athletes, coaches and fans at school sports events: When the national anthem is played, stand and place your right hand over your heart. …

This is the second time in the last year students have said they’ve felt pressured to participate in patriotic acts. The other was a Pledge of Allegiance incident during the 2015-2016 school year, when three senior students said they felt pressured to stand and recite the Pledge.

The Big Idea

‘Maine has long had a significant issue with institutional racism — Portlander Matthew Raymond writes in this Press Herald op-ed:

Consider the provincialism we were all immersed in as children, which is often misattributed to the fact that Maine is a natural tourist destination. Popular vernacular such as being “from away” or seeing an “out-of-stater” aren’t just the quirks of a society that relies on the service and tourism industries for its economy, but are in fact social constructions rooted in xenophobia and racism.


 

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.

Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.