August 6, 2013

Deal paves way for Portland arena on Fore River

Suburban Propane agrees to relocate so an events center – part of an $100 million project known as The Forefront – can be built on Thompson's Point.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The developers of a $100 million project on Thompson's Point say they reached an agreement Monday with the owner of Suburban Propane's Fore River facility to relocate the operation to another site in Portland.

click image to enlarge

In this 2011 file photo, Thompson's Point in Portland. he developers of a $100 million project on Thompson's Point say they reached an agreement Monday with the owner of Suburban Propane's Fore River facility to relocate the operation to another site in Portland, clearing the way for an events center.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A locator map for The Forefront, a $105 million project planned for Thompson's Point in Portland.

Chris Thompson, a partner in Forefront Partners I, said Monday night that the agreement, which took several months to negotiate, means his development group will be able to build an events center and sports arena on the 2.5-acre site now occupied by Suburban Propane.

It also means that passengers on the Amtrak Downeaster will be able to step off the train and walk a short distance to the events center, the new home of the Maine Red Claws professional basketball team.

The change in location for the events center – the developers have been in discussions with potential naming sponsors for the center – needs approval by Portland's Planning Board. The center would have a seating capacity of 3,500 for basketball games and 4,500 for indoor concerts.

Thompson said the new spot for the events center represents a huge step forward for the project, The Forefront at Thompson's Point.

"We have been working on this (agreement with Suburban Propane) for a long time. It's a game-changer for us in that it lets us have that rail side land. The events center will be next to the tracks," Thompson said. "We always thought it would be ideal if we could make an arrangement to move them off site."

Thompson said his development group will acquire the land and permits for Suburban Propane's new location. He would not say where the company will go.

Suburban Propane is a nationwide marketer and distributor of propane, fuel oil, natural gas and electricity products, according to its website.

The Forefront at Thompson's Point, which will be on a peninsula off Congress Street that juts into the Fore River, was introduced to the public in April 2010.

Since then, the project has received approvals from the Planning Board and been given a $30 million tax break by the city.

With permitting in place, Thompson said his development group closed on its acquisition of the Thompson's Point on June 27.

Thompson said he and his partners, Bill Ryan Jr. and Jed Troubh -- principal owners of the Maine Red Claws -- paid $7.4 million for the 25-acre property.

Thompson said his development group bought Thompson's Point from the estate of Peter Van Wyck. Van Wyck, who lived in Essex, Mass., died in 2009.

According to his obituary, Van Wyck was a real estate developer who owned land in Boston, Essex, Manchester, N.H., and Portland.

Later this month, Thompson said, his group will announce a tenant that will occupy a 30,000-square-foot building. He would not identify the tenant, saying only that it will be a "cultural and educational use" that is now based out of state.

Thompson said the first phase of the project will include the events center, a hotel, an outdoor concert venue with seating for 4,500 people, a restaurant, retail space, a 700-car parking garage, a sports medicine lab and 180,000 square feet of office space.

Thompson said his group is negotiating with two potential tenants for the office space. He declined to identify them.

Thompson said purchase of the property in June represented a milestone.

"It was huge. You don't spend that kind of money unless you are at a point where it makes sense to do that," he said.

Thompson said his group will have to return to the Planning Board to get approval for a site plan revision. That could happen in September. If everything goes according to schedule, construction could begin in October.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com 

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