Developers have filed plans to convert one of Portland’s most iconic buildings into a 186-room luxury hotel with a rooftop bar.

The proposal, which faces an initial review before the city’s historic preservation board on Wednesday, also would include banquet and meetings rooms, a restaurant, and retail stores in the 14-story office tower known as the Time & Temperature Building.

The historic preservation board will review the proposed exterior changes as part of the project, which must undergo planning board reviews as well.

Developer Chris Rhoades, of T.T. Maine Venture, LLC, hopes to have the project under construction by this fall, with occupancy ready by the end of 2023 – right before the building’s 100-year anniversary. He said the hotel’s downtown location on Congress Street near Monument Square and a three-season rooftop bar – with a retractable canopy roof and glass walls – will make for a unique destination, offering water views from all sides.

Drew Preston and Chris Rhoades, right, stand on the roof of the Time & Temperature Building in Portland in August 2020. The developers purchased the building in October 2018 for $9.3 million and have been working on plans to restore the landmark. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“It makes for an unbelievable setting and we plan to make an unbelievable hotel,” Rhoades said.

His business partner, Drew Preston, said the project will restore many historic finishes and they are working with the Maine Historical Society to incorporate the building’s history. The sign that displays the time, temperature and other short messages atop the building will remain in some form, he said.

Deb Andrews, the city’s historic preservation manager, said in a memo that board members should focus on proposals to redesign the upper two floors, as well as a proposed freestanding canopy at the main entrance on Congress Street. She said unanswered questions remain about how the Time & Temperature sign on top of the building will be refurbished and whether the rooftop bar will occupy the existing top two floors, or be located in a new addition.

“The aspects of the proposal that are likely to prompt the most discussion are the proposed redesign of the (two floors and the) rooftop addition, the proposed entrance canopy, and signage, as these are new added features and ones where an appropriate design solution is subject to more scrutiny or interpretation,” she wrote.

Rhoades said in an interview Tuesday that the bar is proposed for the rooftop, which was recently redone, and that the top two floors, which were added in 1963, will be hotel rooms. He said the rooftop bar will be designed as a three-season space, with a retractable roof, glass walls and bar seating near the elevator shaft.

Chris Rhoades, left, and Drew Preston stand on the roof of the Time & Temperature building in downtown Portland in December 2019. The rooftop offers views across the city and Casco Bay. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Christine Grimando, the city’s planning and urban development director, said staff is reviewing the application to see whether the bar would trigger the need for a zoning amendment.

“We’re still reviewing the submission for compliance with zoning and other standards, but the application doesn’t show the project exceeding maximum height,” she said. “If the applicant proposed to exceed the maximum height with the project, the application for a zoning map amendment would precede the site plan review.”

The Time & Temperature complex comprises four separate buildings that were tied together when the central office tower was constructed in 1924, Andrews wrote. In addition to the Chapman Building at 477 Congress St., the complex includes the Preble House building at 481 Congress St., 10-20 Preble St. and the former B.F. Keith Theatre at 22 Preble St.

Although outside the board’s purview, Andrews noted the unique retail arcade that is contained in the complex and is still largely intact. Rhoades said that area will be restored and include a fitness center, meeting spaces and smaller commercial units for small businesses, which would be accessed from Preble Street.

The 14-story office tower at 477 Congress St., which opened in 1924 as the 12-story Chapman Building, was seized by a collections agency in 2016 after years of neglect and a mass exodus of tenants. It was then sold at auction to T.T. Maine Venture in October 2018 for $9.3 million.

Rhoades and Preston have a background in real estate development and financial backing from the Presidium Group, a Dallas-based real estate investment firm that owns about 13,000 apartment units in multiple states. The same partnership is behind Brunswick Landing Venture LLC, which has purchased 120 acres of former base housing and buildable land inside Brunswick Landing, a decommissioned naval air station in Brunswick that was converted to private ownership in 2011.

The Time & Temperature Building can be recognized from miles around by the 30-foot-wide, 9-foot-high digital clock on its roof, a Portland landmark since it was installed in 1964. Rhoades said they will either refurbish that sign, or install a new one that is capable of displaying more characters.

“We will probably upgrade it,” he said. “We’re waiting to hear back about our options from historic reservation.”

Scores of hotel rooms have been added in Portland in recent years, but Rhoades said the demand shows no signs of waning.

Even amid the pandemic, Maine – especially Portland with its breweries and restaurants – remains a popular destination.

“I think you’ll find occupancy rates are going to be off the charts” this summer,” Rhoades said. “There’s a high level of demand to come and visit Portland.”

Rhoades and Preston also have an application pending to build 260 apartments on the same block at 45 Brown St. However, Rhoades said that project is on hold while they seek a tax break from the city in order to move forward. They originally requested $32 million in tax increment financing over 30 years, but their request has been reduced to $25 million over the same timeframe.

Rhoades said the council chose not to vote on the request last month and instead sent it back to a council committee for further review. If the council decides against providing that financing, he said they would convert it to a condominium project.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: