Thursday, April 24, 2014
PORTLAND - A high-profile, 10-acre property on Portland's eastern waterfront that has long been looked at for a major development has been sold.
The Portland Co. Complex sprawls along the waterfront as seen from the Ocean Gateway Garage. The property has been sold.
2012 Press Herald File Photo / Gabe Souza
The sale of the Portland Co. Marine Complex, which has been on the market since 2008, closed Monday, said Tony McDonald of CBRE/The Boulos Co.
McDonald would not provide details about the purchase price, the buyer or what the future may hold for the property. He said it was a complex transaction.
"It was a multiparty transaction that also involved acquiring land on West Commercial Street," McDonald said.
The owner of the Portland Co. complex, Phineas Sprague Jr., has city approval to build a boat repair yard on West Commercial Street. He would not comment Friday on the sale. A news release is expected Monday.
The sale could be a sign that the eastern waterfront is poised for investment, said Greg Mitchell, the city's economic development director.
"New ownership opens the door to new ideas and new development opportunities," he said. "It's significant. It's clearly an attractive location."
The Portland Co. complex, at 58 Fore St., is outside the city's Waterfront Central Zone, which stretches from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal, so it is not subject to the strict zoning rules that protect Portland's working waterfront.
In 2002, the city published its Master Plan for Redevelopment of the Eastern Waterfront, which was updated in 2004 and 2006.
The study looked at the area bordered by Franklin, Middle, Hancock, Federal, Mountfort and Fore streets. It envisions a mix of uses, including homes, hotels, offices, restaurants and retail, with renovation of some of the historic buildings in the area.
Mitchell said the master plan calls for any redevelopment to complement existing residential, commercial and municipal land uses, including the Ocean Gateway cruise ship terminal.
The study notes that the Portland Co. complex is unique because its buildings are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and it is the only private property in the study area with direct access to the water.
The Portland Co. was established in 1846 as a foundry to build railroad equipment for the connection between Portland and Montreal. It remained a significant steel fabricator until 1978.
The complex produced 628 locomotives, 160 ships and equipment for the Panama Canal, according to its website.
The property, with 1,000 linear feet of deep-water ocean frontage, is at the base of Munjoy Hill. It now houses several businesses and nonprofits, including Portland Yacht Services, the Maine Island Trail Association and the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum.
According to the city's tax records, 58 Fore St. consists of seven acres of taxable property and three buildings valued at nearly $1.9 million. Two of the buildings date back to 1900, while the third was built in 1950.
McDonald said Sprague will continue operating the 128-slip marina on the property and hosting the popular flower and boat shows that are held at the complex each year.
In December, Sprague received city approval to build a boatyard -- to be called Canal Landing -- on about 22 acres at 40 W. Commercial St. -- just west of the Casco Bay Bridge.
Sprague subsequently decided to move his proposed boatyard farther west to free up land next to the International Marine Terminal for a cargo-related development, such as a cold-storage warehouse.
Officials from Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping company that began using the International Marine Terminal for container service in March, have said they hope that the steady supply of frozen fish it will import from northern Europe will encourage someone to build a cold-storage warehouse on the waterfront.
Sprague's plan for the boatyard would require the removal of trees, putting him at odds with the state's shoreland zoning laws.
However, the Legislature amended the laws to allow removal of trees in working "waterfront zones."
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: