The former Portland Co. complex on Tuesday. Founded in 1846, it was the first locomotive factory in the U.S. to bring all the necessary shops and foundry together on one site. It connected Portland to Montreal by rail. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The developers of the former Portland Co. complex on the eastern waterfront want to establish a restaurant, offices and a residential unit in a historic brick building that they plan to rebuild at 58 Fore St.

But the staff in the city’s historic preservation office is asking Portland Foreside Development Co. to rethink those uses because they require too many alterations and additions to the “signature building” in the historic district whose “simplicity of form and design” are its trademarks.

An occupancy permit for a new office building proposed as part of the development cannot be issued until the historic preservation office signs off on the rebuilding plan.

Deb Andrews, manager of the city’s Historic Preservation Program, applauded several of the design aspects being proposed for rebuilding Building 12, also known as the Pattern Storehouse. But other additions, including a dormer, an elevator shaft, a patio and a shed-like structure to hide mechanical systems and trash compromise the historic character of the building.

The historic Pattern Storehouse building at the Portland Co. complex, seen in April, has been meticulously taken apart so it can be rebuilt later. But the city has taken issue with some alterations and additions planned for the building, which a historic preservation panel says could damage its historical character. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“While staff can appreciate all of the competing requirements and interests that complicate any adaptive reuse of this structure, the importance of preserving the clarity and simplicity of its form and architectural expression needs to remain front and center in any project planning,” Andrews said. “As such, selecting new use(s) for the building that do not necessitate significant alterations is an essential first consideration.”

Andrews will present her recommendations to the Historic Preservation Board during a workshop session Wednesday. No votes are planned.

Neither Casey Prentice nor Kevin Costello, partners in the Portland Foreside Development Co., returned messages requesting an interview, or responded to written questions sent by email.

The review comes as the team appears to be taking steps toward restoring the remaining historic buildings at the 10-acre site.

Over the summer, buildings that were not historically significantly to the site’s former use as a railroad foundry were demolished.

On Tuesday, the team began submitting applications to begin restoring the nine remaining buildings and improving other infrastructure on the site, including a pedestrian bridge connecting the old machine shop to its offices and retaining and sea walls.

However, Wednesday’s meeting will focus solely on the reconstruction of the Pattern Storehouse, which was meticulously dismantled over the summer.

The Portland Company Pattern Storehouse as it appeared in 1937. Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of MaineMemory.net

Original redevelopment plans called for moving the storehouse closer to the waterfront to make way for a new office building. But further analysis by the developers deemed the building too fragile to move.

So earlier this year, the preservation board voted to allow the developers to take apart the building, brick by brick, and rebuild it at its new location. It’s believed to be the first brick building in Maine to be dismantled and rebuilt in order to preserve it.

The preservation board, which provides design advice on projects in or abutting historic districts and buildings, placed a condition on its approval of those plans. A certificate of occupancy for a new office building – plans for which have yet to be filed or reviewed – would not be granted until the storehouse was rebuilt to the city’s specifications.

According to a project description by the Boston-based Bruner/Cott Architects, dormers are proposed for each side of the gabled roof of the storehouse. Those dormers would help hide a proposed elevator shaft, while also creating more space for a proposed third floor residential unit.

Offices are proposed on the second floor and a restaurant use is proposed for the ground floor, they said. The restaurant would have a dual, indoor-outdoor, wood-burning fireplace and an outdoor patio with pergola and canvas shades.

However, Andrews noted in a memo to the board that members had previously expressed concern about adding dormers to the building.

The master plan for redevelopment approved in December 2016 calls for a mix of housing, office, retail, hotel rooms, structured parking and a marina. Because of its history as a former railroad foundry, 43 percent of the site has been designated as a historic district. And eight out of 16 buildings are due to be preserved.

Over the summer, many of the buildings deemed eligible for demolition were taken down. And a new 150-slip marina has since opened.

The Pattern Storehouse, a 3½-story brick building with a gabled roof and the words “Portland Co.” scrawled across the top, dates to when the site was a railroad foundry.

Founded in 1846, the Portland Co. complex was built to connect Portland to Montreal by rail and was the first locomotive factory in the United States that brought all of the necessary shops and foundry together on one site. It remained in operation for 137 years and was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Built in 1895, the storehouse was located away from the core of foundry buildings because flammable materials were stored there. The interior is divided into three main floors with wood-planked flooring and exposed brick walls and wood framing.

Andrews said that staff is very supportive of the reconstruction of the masonry shell and for replicating the patterns and details of the sash and brick molds, as well as plans for preserving two large garage doors. But in the end, the board must decide whether the alterations taken together compromise the historic character of the building.

“In beginning its review, the board might inquire as to how the overall program of uses for this building was determined,” Andrews said. “Given the number of existing and proposed structures on the overall 58 Fore St. property, it seems reasonable to assume that there are a fair number of options in terms of locating various uses.”

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