A developer who promised to bring housing to the Old Port has changed course and this week announced plans to turn the building into a hotel.

In 2022, the Portland Planning Board approved plans to turn 54 York St., formerly Baxter Academy for Science and Technology, into a 14-unit apartment building. The building was going to have four units of low-income housing to meet the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires any new housing development to save 25% of its units for affordable housing with maximum rents based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s area median income.

The plans for the three-story building included 10 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments, common areas, residential storage, a fitness room, bike room and trash room above two commercial spaces.

But on Tuesday, the development team behind 54 York LLC asked the planning board to approve the change to a hotel with 14 apartment-style hotel rooms. The common areas, storage, fitness room, bike room and trash room were included in the updated plan.

The city’s inclusionary zoning requirements mandate that hotel projects either build a certain number of low-income housing units based on the number of rooms they will have or pay a fee-in-lieu-of to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. The developers elected to pay the fee, which works out to just over $65,500.

Because the proposal was only to switch the intended use – with no changes to the structure or layout of the building – the planning board approved the change but criticized the addition of another hotel.


“It does feel like a bait and switch,” board member Sean Murphy said. “We were told we were going to have residential down in this area … We want those to happen here, it’s part of our overall city goals to have that. Another hotel is not necessarily high on the city priority list.”

Lori Alexander, a Portland resident, noted in written public comment that there are three large existing hotels within a few hundred feet of the project.

“It doesn’t seem reasonable at all to approve yet another hotel when there is such a well-publicized need for more housing units for the people who live and work here,” she said.

Building owner Chris DiMillo only decided to pivot to a hotel recently, said Marieke Thormann, vice president of development for Fathom Companies, a real estate development and hotel management firm that will oversee the hotel.

After a tour of the building with DiMillo, his business partner Jay Hibbard and Fathom representatives, “(It) was clear to us that their focus on quality, combined with the ability to offer larger rooms, would provide an elevated experience to guests,” she said.

The nearby Canopy Portland Waterfront, The Press Hotel and the as-of-yet unnamed hotel planned for 385 Congress St. also are under the company’s umbrella.



Dubbed The Weldon, the hotel’s 14 suites will join the ranks of more than 1,200 Portland hotel rooms currently in the pipeline, according to data from The Arrants Company, a Falmouth hotel asset management and investment firm. Meanwhile, according to the report, some of the “revenge travel” following the pandemic has abated and demand has softened, though not tanked. Portland hotels’ revenue per available room, a standard used to measure profitability, was down 2.3% in November compared to November 2022.

But despite the increased competition, Thormann is confident there’s a place for The Weldon.

“The hospitality market has demand for unique properties that create dynamic and flexible experiences and can cater to different guest lengths of stay and providing versatility, amenities and service that a residential development may not provide.

The hotel touts itself as an “urban oasis in the heart of Portland’s Old Port.” On a newly created social media page, the hotel says its luxury apartment-style suites are ideal for short or extended stays.

The suites are designed to appeal to families with children, groups looking for large spaces, travelers with dietary restrictions or others who prefer to cook a full meal, Thormann said.

Thormann said the hotel is scheduled to open in mid-July.

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