An underused wharf on the Portland waterfront has changed hands, but the property’s full future use is still unclear.

Christopher DiMillo, owner of DiMillo’s Yacht Sales, closed on Berlin Mills Wharf at 400 Commercial St. last month for $4 million. The 1.5-acre property includes a street-facing, four-story office building, wharf and vacant waterfront industrial building.

Christopher DiMillo, owner of DiMillo’s Yacht Sales, has bought the Berlin Mills Wharf at 400 Commercial St., which is home to a four-story office building, wharf and vacant waterfront industrial building. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


DiMillo said he plans to improve the building’s facade and renovate the first floor as restaurant space for lease. Upper floor tenants include hospitality, engineering and security companies. Recent development in the Commercial Street corridor, including a hotel and condominium development at the former Rufus Deering Lumber yard across from the property, makes a restaurant a good use for that space, he said.

“I don’t intend to go into the restaurant business, I intend to fix it up and put a tenant in it,” DiMillo said. The DiMillo family has a marina and restaurant on Long Wharf, but Chris DiMillo is not involved in the food side of the business.

Acquiring the wharf also gave him extra docking space to add about five clients from a waiting list for the Portland boatyard. None of the commercial and fishing boats that lease space on the wharf will be displaced, DiMillo said.


But aside from those steps, DiMillo isn’t certain what he’ll do with the property.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think it is a great opportunity there,” he said.

Until about a year ago, the wharf was home to a portion of Portland Yacht Services, but the company moved its operation to a bigger yard on the western waterfront after declining to buy the property, DiMillo said.

Portland Yacht Service’s departure was a big reason marine use vacancy seemed high in a waterfront property inventory conducted by Portland officials late last year. City regulations require marine uses for much of the property abutting the waterfront.

Although the Berlin Mills Wharf isn’t used for boat storage and repair, there is still a legal covenant attached to the property saying it cannot be used as a boat yard for another five years, DiMillo added.

That leaves him with a valuable piece of waterfront property that he can’t yet use for his own business. DiMillo said he plans to put together a comprehensive plan to add more docks for commercial and recreational uses.


“I’m stuck with the covenant right now,” DiMillo said. “If that comes and goes and I haven’t found any uses for it I’m going to turn it into a boat yard and fold it into my business.”

He is hopeful a plan to dredge Portland’s waterfront could help, too. At least 30 percent of the berth space is not usable because heavy silt deposits have made the channel too shallow, DiMillo said.

“There is a program to do a cooperative dredge,” he said. “When and if that happens it would really open up opportunities there.”