PORTLAND – The Planning Board has unanimously approved an expansion and renovation project on the city’s waterfront as well as new construction of a rock-climbing wall and fitness center on Warren Avenue.

The expansion and renovation of building 1 on Maine Wharf may set the stage, in part, for a new fish market and restaurant on the pier.

The wharf is located off Commercial Street behind Ri Ra’s Irish pub and the Dry Dock restaurant.

The project calls for rebuilding the existing 9,000-square-foot building closest to Commercial Street, while adding two stories totaling nearly 16,000 square feet of space.

The upper floors will be used for office space, developer Pat Tinsman has said. The ground-floor space has been advertised for months for marine-dependent uses but to no avail, he said.

Tinsman has received interest from people who want to open a fish market close to Commercial Street and a seafood restaurant next door, but couldn’t secure leases until the project was approved by the board.

Planning Board Chairwoman Carol Morrissette said board members expressed some concern about pedestrian safety — especially since no tenants have finalized agreements — but favored the overall plan.

The board is requiring the developer to submit more detailed pedestrian plans once uses are finalized.

“It’s really a good project,” she said.

The wharf is owned by Stephen Goodrich, the founder and former chief executive officer of Portland-based PowerPay.

In order to open a restaurant on the wharf, Goodrich would have to apply for a change of use permit because of protections afforded to the working waterfront in the city’s Waterfront Central Zone, which stretches from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal.

The board also approved a new rock-climbing wall and fitness center at 65 Warren Ave.

Once completed, Evolution Rock and Fitness will consist of a single-story, 13,000-square-foot building with a mezzanine and rock wall that will be about 40 feet tall, according to planning documents.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

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