PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday will take up a proposed renovation and expansion of a building on Maine Wharf that could pave the way for a new fish market and seafood restaurant on the city’s waterfront.
Maine Wharf is located off Commercial Street behind Ri Ra’s Irish pub and the Dry Dock restaurant. The wharf had fallen in disrepair, and a partial collapse led to the eviction of several businesses in 2011.
The project would rebuild the existing 9,000-square-foot building closest to Commercial Street, while adding two stories totaling nearly 16,000 square feet of space.
Stephen Goodrich, founder of Portland-based Powerpay, purchased the wharf at 68-72 Commercial St. from Eric Cianchette.
Goodrich has since been working to stabilize pilings beneath the pier. His developer, Pat Tinsman, said pier building No. 1 will be redeveloped in phases as tenants are finalized.
The upper floors will be used for office space, Tinsman said. The ground-floor space has been advertised for months for marine-dependent uses but to no avail, he said.
Tinsman said he has received interest from people who want to open a fish market close to Commercial Street and a seafood restaurant next door.
“We’re hoping to get as close as possible (to marine uses),” Tinsman said. “It would really be a nice amenity for the city.”
Since Goodrich bought the pier, Tinsman said two groundfish trawlers have leased berthing space there.
Tinsman said interest from the prospective restaurateur and fish market operator is “serious” but no formal agreements have been signed.
“I can’t really sign up any tenants because we don’t have any approvals,” he said.
Upper floors of pier buildings are allowed to be used for office space, but a restaurant would require a change of use permit from the city.
Rules for the Waterfront Central Zone, which runs from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal, allow for up to 45 percent of ground-floor pier space farther than 125 feet from Commercial Street — or closer than 25 feet to the water — to be leased to nonmarine uses. However, pier owners must first market their ground-floor space to marine uses for at least 60 days.
According to planning documents, an advertisement for 9,000 square feet of marine-related space and 250 lineal feet of dockage for $12 per square foot was placed in the Working Waterfront newspaper in May and June.
The ad also appears on the online-based classified service Craigslist.
The 1.2-acre wharf is about 75 feet by 700 feet. It was originally developed in the 19th century and was used as a coal terminal.
More recently, the pier has been used for vessel berthing and seafood and marine businesses.
“Overall, the architectural program shows a contemporary adaptation of an industrial building well-suited to its waterfront context,” City Planner Bill Needelman wrote in an Aug. 9 memo to the Planning Board.
The interior will be largely left open, so it can be fitted up to meet the needs of the tenant. The first floor ceiling is being raised to 15 feet to meet current requirements.
The same applies to the exterior, which is described in the planning memo as “industrial metal siding and generous fenestration.”
William Hopkins, the project architect, said Monday it’s too soon release renderings for the building, because the final design depends greatly on the tenant.