PORTLAND, Maine — A longtime Portland waterfront property owner told city officials Tuesday that high-profile customers already are lining up for a boat maintenance and repair yard he is proposing for 22 acres of largely undeveloped waterfront property on West Commercial Street.
Portland Yacht Services owner Phineas Sprague is proposing to move from 58 Fore St. and expand at the new location, setting up berthing, dry dock and brokerage services for yachts and large boats for the industrially zoned site just west of Casco Bay Bridge. On Tuesday afternoon, the city Planning Board got its first look at the project in a workshop setting.
Sprague told the board the so-called Canal Landing New Yard would not only add waterfront jobs, but also could trigger additional spinoff development in the area as well.
“We’re at 34 [employees] right now, and we could be doubled easily, and when the program is all in place, there could be 150 people in various places,” Sprague told the board. “When you have a facility like this, it is really a catalyst for the development of the waterfront.”
The Munjoy Hill News reported in August that the new facility would allow the company to accommodate vessels of 1,500 tons, compared with the 44-ton vessels the outfit currently can handle at the Fore Street site. The Fore Street location would continue to serve as a marina and event space, which annually hosts activities such as the Maine Boatbuilders Show and the Portland Flower Show.
Sprague told the city Planning Board on Tuesday night he has already reached tentative agreements to service ocean classroom boats such as the historic 120-plus-foot-long schooners Spirit of Massachusetts, Westward, Amistad and Virginia — as well as “other large passenger vessels in need of Coast Guard refits.”
“My proposal does not require any zone changes or variances,” Sprague told the board. “I believe my proposal represents exactly the kind of thing the city has wanted for 25 years.”
The property over the past century was home to the Portland Gas Light Co. and Maine Central Railroad, but since the 1970s has been largely unused and overgrown. Sprague has agreements to purchase the property from Pan Am Railways and lease a small amount of adjacent acreage from Unitil, a natural gas company.
“This is the first development proposal to come forward for this property in anyone’s recent memory,” Portland Senior Planner Bill Needelman told the board.
Across West Commercial Street, another developer, J.B. Brown & Sons, is proposing a trio of office buildings for a 10.65-acre lot between Benny’s Fried Clams and the Portland Star Match Co. building.