The Planning Board last week approved a project that would add an 18-story, largely residential high-rise to the corner of Temple and Federal streets. Contributed / Redfern Properties

Right now it is a small brick plaza at the Federal Street entrance to the United States Postal Services office on Congress Street, but soon it be home to the state’s tallest building.

The Portland Planning Board last week unanimously gave Redfern Downtown LLC, a subsidy of Redfern Properties, the go-ahead to build an 18-story mixed use building at 201 Federal St. The building, once completed in 2023, will offer first floor commercial space and 266 apartments, 27 of which will be reserved for those earning up to the 2020 area median income of $70,630 for an individual or $80,720 for a couple.

The building will have ground floor commercial space and 266 apartment units and will be the tallest building in the state. Contributed / Redfern Properties

Plans also call for a small plaza that would keep the rear entrance of the post office accessible. The plaza, would include benches and a water wall, is still subject to staff review. Jonathan Culley, a partner at Redfern Properties said the plaza will not be constructed until 2023.

“I think this project is definitely exciting,” Planning Board Vice Chairperson Maggie Stanley said before the board’s vote May 26. “We’ve come a long way.”

Right now, the tallest building in the city, and state, is Franklin Towers, a 175-foot, 16-story apartment building at Cumberland Avenue and Franklin Street. One City Center across the street from the development site is a 13-story, close to 140-foot tall officer building and the nearby Time and Temperature building at 477 Congress St. rises 14 stories. The only structures in the city taller the new building will be the clock tower of City Hall and the spire of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which are roughly 200 feet above the ground.

The board’s review of the project began in 2019, and the plans also required City Council and Historic Preservation Board action. The council agreed to a zoning change for the project because buildings over 14 stories were prohibited in that area. The city’s preservation board also needed to OK the proposal because the site is in the Congress Street Historic District.

Planning Board member Austin Smith said he was glad to see the housing, which will include 117 studio units, 146 one-bedroom units and two 2-bedroom units.  Rents, according to the Press Herald, would range from $1,300 to $2,000.

“It will be great for Portland,” he said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it it to do this undertaking – a building of this height in such a confined site. I hope you work with staff through the construction management plans and with with neighbors as well.”

The developers worked with city staff, including arborist Jeff Tarling, to make sure the new street trees would not impact the view down Temple Street toward the First Parish Church on Congress Street. Contributed / Redfern Properties

The size and scope of the project and parking had raised concerns, along with whether the building would obstruct the view from Temple Street of the First Parish Church, a close to 200-year-old church that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The development team worked with city arborist Jeff Tarling to choose tree types that wouldn’t impact the view, which is legally protected. The property will provide 21 parking spots for postal customers to use during the day and have an agreement to set aside 125 spaces for residents in the Chestnut Street Garage.

Culley said he intends to apply for a building permit this week and begin construction in August.

Redfern Properties has developed several residential buildings across the city, including Hiawatha at 667 Congress St., Redfern Mews and 89 Anderson in East Bayside. and West End Place on the corner of Brackett and Pine streets. With NewHeight Group, it is working on developing the old Mercy Hospital site on State Street.

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