An aerial view of the proposed Herald Square project next to City Hall in downtown Portland. The project, which would include a 156-room hotel, 297 condominiums, seven retail units totaling about 11,500 square feet, a 5,100-square-foot restaurant, recreation space and more than 330 parking spaces, would be built in four phases, beginning with the hotel. Rendering courtesy of CBT Architects.

Plans to redevelop the block of Congress Street immediately east of City Hall into a new hotel, nearly 300 condominiums and retail space are one step closer to reality after Portland’s Planning Board approved a master plan for the project Tuesday night.

The board voted 5-0 with members Maggie Stanley and Austin Smith absent to approve the master plan for the multiphase project estimated to cost between $200 million and $300 million.

The plan provides a basic outline of the project, though subsequent site plans for each phase and other approvals will be needed.

“This project and the phasing looks good to me and I think it will (improve) an underutilized piece of property in the city,” board Vice Chair Brandon Mazer said before the vote.

The proposed project includes the site of the former Portland Press Herald printing plant – and is thus being called “Herald Square” – and comprises three attached buildings, including a 156-room hotel, 297 condominiums, seven retail units totaling about 11,500 square feet, a 5,100-square-foot restaurant, recreation space and more than 330 parking spaces.

Joe Dasco, operating partner of the project for developer Reger Dasco Properties, said in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that the project will take years to build and it’s too early to say when it might be completed.


But he said the site plan application for the hotel, which is being constructed by The Fathom Companies, could be submitted before the end of the month and that Reger Dasco is looking to file a site plan application for the first phase of the condominiums this fall.

“It’s a very large project with multiple phases so it’s hard to tell (what the time frame will be),” Dasco said. “But it’s going to be several years minimum.”

The plans submitted to the city call for four phases of the project to be completed following demolition of the two existing structures at the site, which currently is used primarily for parking, though some phases may be constructed simultaneously.

Phase 1 includes construction of the 12-story, 157,600-square-foot hotel, nine condos, the restaurant, some of the retail and parking space and part of a landscaped “amenity deck,” including a public promenade and green space bisecting condo units and fitness and meeting areas.

Phase 2 calls for a 14-story building with 110 condominiums, 4,000 square feet of retail and 148 enclosed parking spaces. The final phases would include a 13-story building with 97 condominium units and four retail units and an 11-story addition with another 81 condos.

The board heard public comment on the project from only one person Tuesday night, though four written submissions were received on topics including traffic circulation and support for the planting of new street trees and landscaping as a component of the project.

George Rheault, a frequent critic of city government, questioned whether the board was able to approve a setback waiver for the project and expressed concerns about street-level pedestrian views and security around a Myrtle Street staircase up to the amenity deck.

Staff from the development team responded by saying the site plan application process will include more details about the façade for a ground-level parking area that would include some sort of screening such as artwork or vegetation, and that while their won’t be physical security guards at the Myrtle Street stairs, design features such as a gate that closes in off-hours are being considered.

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