February 24, 2011

Portland landmark step closer to selling

The City Council approves new licenses so a hotel investment firm can buy the Eastland Park.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - A downtown landmark is about to change hands.

click image to enlarge

The 83-year-old Eastland Park Hotel, which has Portland’s only rooftop lounge, towers over Congress Square in the heart of the city’s arts district.

Associated Press file

The Portland City Council on Wednesday night approved entertainment, food and liquor licenses for RB Portland LLC of Delaware -- the prospective new owner of the Eastland Park Hotel at 157 High St.

James N. Katsiaficas, a Portland-based attorney, said the applicant is a new company formed by RockBridge Capital LLC of Columbus, Ohio, to operate the hotel. RockBridge is a hotel investment firm.

In its filing with the city, RockBridge indicated that obtaining entertainment and liquor licenses was necessary before the pending sale could go through. The filings also indicate that the purchase agreement includes a mandatory closing date no later than Feb. 28.

Katsiaficas and Brian Ford, a representative from RockBridge's investment division, appeared before the City Council.

"We are very excited about the opportunities here in the coming months," Ford told the council.

Ford said that due to confidentiality provisions in the pending sales contract he could not elaborate on RockBridge's plans for the hotel.

After the council vote, Katsiaficas and Ford were asked about any proposed changes in the name or in the hotel's operation.

"We are looking forward to continuing this Portland landmark," was all that Katsiaficas would say.

The 85-year-old hotel -- with its Top of the East bar, Portland's only rooftop lounge -- has been on the market for some time. The hotel, located off High Street in the heart of Portland's art district, towers over Congress Square.

"It's an important landmark in the city, one that we certainly want to see continue in a vibrant part of our city," said Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones Jr.

The current owners of the Eastland Park Hotel include the Magna Hospitality Group.

In RockBridge Capital's application to the city, Executive Vice President Kenneth J. Krebs wrote that the sale is contingent on the company being granted the permits needed to "maintain continuity of normal operations."

The expected sale would represent a significant investment in one of the state's largest lodging properties, the head of the Maine Innkeepers Association said Wednesday.

"Anytime a property like that sells in Maine, it's a huge thing," said Greg Dugal, the group's executive director.

The 202-room Eastland Park has been on the market since last fall. It has the second-largest conference space in the city -- the largest is at the 239-room Holiday Inn by the Bay.

On its website, RockBridge said it partners with strong hotel operating companies and premium brands.

That led Dugal to speculate that the Eastland Park, which is an independent hotel, could be converted to a nationally recognized chain.

"People like brands and they like new products," Dugal said. "In terms of marketing and bookings, it pays to have the power of a brand."

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

Staff writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or

tturkel@pressherald.com

 

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