The owner of the property at the corner of York and High streets in Portland, where El Rayo Taqueria currently stands, has submitted a plan to the city for a new five-story building that would house retail space and dozens of apartments.

J.B. Brown & Sons owns the parcel, which is near the Casco Bay Bridge, and has harbored plans to redevelop it for several years. In 2013, the company got the city to rezone part of the parcel to allow it to build a parking garage.

The application, which comes from a subsidiary, 101 York St. LLC, proposes a five-story building on the corner of York and High streets with 17,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 63 market-rate apartments on the upper four floors. The proposal also includes a two-level parking garage for 207 vehicles behind the building with access from both York and Danforth streets.

The plans for the ground-floor commercial are “wide open at this point,” said Vincent Veroneau, CEO of J.B. Brown & Sons, on Monday afternoon. “We’ll see what the market presents for the ground floor. It might be a little early for retail, so it might be service-related or offices, but over time we think it’s a good retail location with the visibility at the corner there.”

The estimated project cost is roughly $18 million, Veroneau said.

The 63 units will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, Veroneau said. They will be market rate, which means J.B. Brown & Sons will not seek housing subsidies. Rental rates will depend on several factors, but it will probably work out to be on average $2 per square foot, Veroneau said.


The units will be up to 25 percent larger than average size, he said. For example, a two-bedroom unit will be closer to 1,200 square feet than the average two-bedroom apartment, which is 900 to 1,000 square feet, he said.

“Our goal is to provide market-rate housing that is a little larger in size than what’s been developed recently,” he said.

The one-level structure that currently houses El Rayo, a traditional Mexican cantina, and the adjacent building that once housed the El Rayo Cantina will be torn down to make way for the new development, according to Veroneau.

“We don’t know at this point but certainly if El Rayo wants to be part of the project we’d love to have them,” Veroneau said.

El Rayo’s owners did not respond to several attempts to reach them Monday.

The city’s planning board will consider the project proposal at either its Oct. 13 or Oct. 27 meeting, according to Jessica Grondin, the city’s spokesperson.


Because the project falls within 100 feet of a historic district – the West End – and includes a single building on High Street that falls within the district, the city’s historic preservation board is required to complete an “advisory review” of the project, Grondin said. That board is also expected to consider the proposal at an October meeting.

Veroneau said he doesn’t anticipate any delays due to the historic preservation review process. The building on High Street that falls within the West End is not being modified and will only be subject to exterior site improvements, he said.

In all, the project will affect slightly more than an acre and a half of land, Veroneau said.

J.B. Brown & Sons has been buying up the block that falls between York, High, Danforth and Maple streets since the 1970s, according to Veroneau.

The company has been around since 1830 and has developed much of Congress Street, Commercial Street, the waterfront and the West End. Today, the company owns about 30 properties in Greater Portland.

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