The Westin Portland Harborside is planning a renovation of its Top of the East lounge that will include two outdoor rooftop decks with views of the city and Portland Harbor. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — The New Year will mean a new look for Top of the East, the lounge located on the 15th floor of the Westin Portland Harborview, one of the city’s oldest hotels.

The hotel plans to convert vacant roof space outside Top of the East into two outdoor decks that overlook downtown Portland and the waterfront.

A new expansion project at Top of the East calls for two exterior rooftop decks, complete with outdoor fireplaces, as shown in this rendering. Contributed / Semple Brown

Holly Henderson, director of sales and marketing at the Westin, said work is set to begin sometime this year, but a timeline has not been defined.

The idea, Henderson said, is to create a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors and residents. The two outdoor furnished outdoor decks will have fireplaces and decorative lighting and together will accommodate 108 people.

“With dramatic views of the harbor, it will be a wonderful addition to the city,” said Lauren Dundon of Semple Brown Designs, the architect on the project.

“In these uncertain times, we believe the need for outdoor space to gather will only grow and we hope all the residents and visitors to Portland love this venue,” Dundon said.

If approved, the Top of the East’s exterior rooftop decks would be among the first in the city. The Canopy Hilton Hotel that Fathom Companies is building at Center and Commercial streets will include a seventh-story rooftop deck overlooking Commercial Street and the waterfront. Fathom Companies went before the Historic Preservation Board last month to amend the July 2019 approval to include an elevator to access the deck. That hotel is expected to be completed this spring.

The preservation board gave conditional approval to Westin’s plan Dec. 16, seeking “a number of minor design details be clarified or adjusted,” Historical Preservation program manager Deb Andrews said Monday.

The plan was subject to historical preservation review because the hotel is listed as an individual historic landmark by the city and it is located in the Congress Street Historic District.

“We expect that the project architects will be submitting the final drawings for staff sign-off in the next week or so,” Andrews said.

The project does not need Planning Board approval, Andrews said.

Board member John Turk said “what is proposed makes a lot of sense and it does not erode the historic character of this particular property.”

“Overall I think every detail, every minutia has been carefully considered by a very competent team and I have full faith in them to execute this,” said Robert O’Brien, vice chairperson of the board.

The job of the Historic Preservation Board is to look at exterior projects in historic buildings and locations to determine if the changes impact the site’s historic significance.

The hotel was built by the Rhines family in 1927. Charles Lindbergh stayed at the hotel after he returned from his solo flight across the Atlantic in May 1927 and it has hosted four sitting U.S. presidents.

In the 1960s, under new ownership, the hotel expanded to include the adjacent Egyptian Court Restaurant. It was at this time that the Top of the East opened. After struggling to compete with other hotels for years under the Sheraton, Sonesta and Radisson brands, the hotel, commonly known as the Eastland, was on the brink of permanent closure. It was purchased by the Westin brand in 2011, underwent a $50 million, 18-month renovation project and reopened as the Westin Portland Harborview in 2013.

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