Exposed steel and an open concept give the Arts District Garage a unique appearance. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Finding parking can be a difficult thing in the city, but a Congress Street property owner hopes a new garage he had built will be meet the need and help fulfill his vision for his property.

Ed Gardner, right, drives a 1929 Model A Ford into the new parking garage behind his property at 511 Congress St. on Aug. 9, with developer Ethan Boxer-Macomber in the passenger seat. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Ed Gardner, broker and owner of Gardner Real Estate Group, last week opened a new parking garage with space for almost 300 vehicles at the corner of Brown Street and Cumberland Avenue, behind Gardner’s Ocean Gate Plaza at 511 Congress St. The garage is accessible from Cumberland Avenue, Brown Street and Casco Street.

“In my opinion, it’s the most attractive, best-sited garage for folks coming to the Old Port and the arts district for food and entertainment,” project developer Ethan Boxer-Macomber said.

Boxer-Macomber said the garage, built on the former site of a surface parking lot, “really gracefully fits into a space that probably wouldn’t be appropriate for many other uses.” The structure was designed by Platz Associates in Auburn and built by Allied/Cook Construction of Scarborough.

Gardner said he decided to call the garage the Arts District Garage because of its close proximity to Maine College of Arts, PortCity Music Hall and Cross Insurance Arena. It is also close to Portland Stage Company and a variety of art-related business that line Congress Street, and is convenient for downtown’s First Friday Arts Walk.

Boxer-Macomber said the open concept and exposed steel sets the garage apart from the 15 other garages in the city.

Much of the parking lot, which took a year to build, will be used during the day by about two dozen tenants in Gardner’s building, but the first floor, accessible from Cumberland Avenue and Brown Street, will be available to the public.

The top floors, accessible via Casco Street, will be available to the public nights, holidays and weekends, said Kelley Craig, an associate broker with Gardner Group. Craig said the garage, which will cost $5 an hour or $45 a day, will also offer at least 90 monthly parking spaces for $160 and snow ban parking at a reduced cost.

Gardner previously had to find 140 parking spaces in other nearby garages to accommodate his tenants.

“It is hard to attract and retain top tenants when you are asking them to walk several blocks, especially in the winter,” Boxer-Macomber said. “Building this garage is going to bolster this building, not just for Ed, but for the community and … the business in there.”

Boxer-Macomber also said the opening of the garage is another step by Gardner in updating, modernizing and improving 511 Congress St., which he called “dated” and needing a lot of deferred maintenance when it was acquired by Gardner.

Gardner said he is also planning a new building for the Equality Community Center, home to Equality Maine and five other LGBT-friendly organizations, started three years ago at 511 Congress St. The new building next to the garage would provide space for those organizations and possibly the NAACP and ACLU, both of which Gardner said have expressed interest. Apartments would be constructed on the second floor.

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