A well-known block on Commercial Street is being transformed as new condos planned for the site are over one-third sold and an adjacent hotel developer is preparing to break ground.

On Wednesday, the first phase of a mixed-use project across from Portland’s western waterfront reached a key development milestone with the final girder being lowered into place on the seven-story structure.

Hobson’s Landing, the redevelopment of a former lumber yard site between York and Commercial streets, is expected to open by September 2020 with a first phase consisting of 85 condominium units and 6,000 square feet of office and retail space. Plans required concessions to protect the working waterfront, mitigate traffic and support workforce housing, all hot-button topics in Portland’s development community.

Developer Joe Dasco, operating partner in Portland for Reger Dasco Properties, said 35, or about 40 percent of the first phase’s condo units already have been sold.

He attributed the sales to a wide range of prices and unit sizes. Prices range from $350,000 for a base unit to $3 million for the largest penthouse unit, Dasco said. The penthouse units offer private decks, three bedrooms and four baths, and more than 3,000-square-feet of living space.

“We’ve taken the unit count from 89 down to 85 because we’ve created some larger units and combined a couple,” he said. “There’s something probably for everybody in this project.”

The least expensive unit still available as of Wednesday is priced at $395,000, Dasco said.

Two additional phases are planned that would include another 80-plus condos, 12,000 square feet of commercial space and a hotel. Initial plans for the site in 2016 included as many as 300 housing units, including rental apartments, but Portland developers have since shifted away from rental construction toward condos and hotels.

A rendering of the approved Hobson’s Landing development, with a hotel and condos at 383 Commercial St. Rendering Courtesy of Archetype Architects

FUTURE PHASES

The next phase of development is being handled by another developer and will consist of a six-story, 155-room hotel at the corner of Commercial and Maple streets, Dasco said. The hotel will carry the Aloft Hotels brand, which is owned by Marriott International subsidiary Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

New Hampshire- and Florida-based developer Norwich Partners LLC purchased the hotel portion of the property from Reger Dasco in 2018.

“They’re just getting ready to break ground any day now,” Dasco said.

As for the third phase, he said it would resemble the first phase but with twice as much office and retail space. Final plans for that phase have not yet been approved by the city, and the timing of construction will depend on how quickly the first phase sells out, Dasco said.

When completed, the project will include a parking garage with about 300 spaces for use by  residents and hotel guests, he said, adding that Reger Dasco has agreed to set aside some parking spaces temporarily for waterfront use until they are needed for the project.

“Until phase three is built, we’ve offered 15 spots for the fishermen to use at a discount rate,” Dasco said.

COMPLICATED DEVELOPMENT

Hobson’s Landing is at the former site of Rufus Deering Lumber Co., which sold its lumber yard in November 2016 after more than 160 years at the location. The Hobson’s Landing project’s master plan was approved by the Portland Planning Board in December 2017.

Redevelopment of the lumber yard, which is being handled by general contractor Consigli Construction, is one of several projects that has raised concerns about growth along Commercial Street, which runs along the edge of Portland Harbor and provides access to the working waterfront.

Commercial fishermen are concerned that the rapid development will push them out of the industrial wharves that extend into the harbor from Commercial Street. Other concerns about the Hobson’s Landing project include increased traffic in the already congested area.

To get approval for the project, Reger Dasco agreed to pay $45,000 toward a traffic corridor study of Commercial Street, $185,000 toward new and improved traffic signals, and $50,000 to extend a bicycle trail that connects to the city’s Back Cove.

“This project had a very minor contribution to the traffic count – I want to say it was approximately 3 to 4 percent at peak hours,” Dasco said about the results of the traffic study. “So while our traffic generated by this project didn’t necessitate a light or the traffic improvements, it’s just helping alleviate an existing problem.”

Jeff Levine, Portland’s director of planning and urban development, said Hobson’s Landing sits within a tax increment financing district that generates funds for long-term capital projects to preserve the city’s working waterfront.

Therefore, the tax revenue it generates will go toward projects such as the construction of additional parking for waterfront users and dredging of the harbor, he said.

“It’s on the land side of Commercial Street, which is the side where we’re supportive of the more non-marine uses,” Levine said about Hobson’s Landing. “The general use pattern fits what the city zoning and other policies look for.”

Reger Dasco is required to comply with city rules that say all residential developers must build or contribute funds for one unit of “workforce” housing for every 10 units of luxury housing they build. Workforce housing is defined as housing priced to be affordable to a worker earning the city’s median household income.

Levine said Reger Dasco is working with another developer on a project to build workforce housing at the nearby corner of State and Danforth streets, but that the project involves complex financing and is not a done deal.

If that project falls through, the developer can opt to pay into the city’s Housing Trust Fund in lieu of building its own housing, he said.

 

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