Well-known Portland developer behind purchase of city’s prime waterfront property

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Posted Aug. 05, 2013, at 9:25 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 05, 2013, at 7:52 p.m.

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A group of developers have acquired The Portland Co. complex, a 10-acre site on Portland's eastern waterfront that includes several red brick buildings dating back to the late 19th century.
A group of developers have acquired The Portland Co. complex, a 10-acre site on Portland's eastern waterfront that includes several red brick buildings dating back to the late 19th century. Buy Photo

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PORTLAND, Maine — One of the buyers of The Portland Co. complex on the city’s eastern waterfront is Jim Brady, a well-known local developer behind such projects as the planned boutique hotel in the former Portland Press Herald building.

Brady told the Bangor Daily News on Monday morning that he is a major partner in a group that purchased the 10-acre waterfront lot at the bottom of Munjoy Hill from Phineas Sprague last Monday.

The other major member of the purchasing entity is The Prentice Organization, which is the owner of the Chebeague Island Inn. Its operating partners are Casey Prentice, general manager of the inn, and his father, Dick Prentice, a partner in Pierce Atwood’s real estate group.

The purchasing entity is known as CPB2 LLC. Brady said a purchase price would not be disclosed, and it would be “premature” to discuss development plans at this point.

“There are no immediate plans to develop the site,” Brady said. “We look forward to working with the city and its planning staff to see through the vision that was adopted by the City Council in the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan, which envisions a mixed-use development.”

The Portland City Council adopted the Eastern Waterfront Master Plan in 2002, and amended it in 2004 and 2006. It encourages “mixed-use developments in a pedestrian-friendly, urban environment.”

The Portland Co. complex, originally the home of a steel manufacturing facility for the railroad, is the only private property in the study area with direct water access, according to the plan. It calls for the “reuse and sensitive rehabilitation of historic structures” on the property, which is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and “the continuation of boat yard and yacht support services.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Casey Prentice, who partnered with Brady to buy The Portland Co. property, told the BDN on Monday.

Like Brady, Prentice said it’s too early to discuss specific plans. However, given that both Brady and the Prentices are heavily involved in the hospitality sector, it’s a safe bet that the property could one day be the site of a new hotel, even if it’s 15-20 years down the road, Prentice said.

“It’s safe to say that, but it’s not firm yet. There’s a lot of new hotel supply hitting the market right now. That will all be part of the economic study we do,” Prentice said.

There are currently two hotels under construction in Portland that will add 255 rooms. Brady’s planned redevelopment of the former Portland Press Herald building would include another 110 rooms.

The acquisition of The Portland Co. property was timed to coincide with Sprague’s plans to acquire land on the city’s western waterfront, where he has City Council approval to build a “world-class boatyard,” Brady said. Following the sale of the The Portland Co. complex last Monday, Sprague acquired two parcels, equaling 15 acres, on the western waterfront on Wednesday and Friday.

“One thing that is important to note is that nothing will change [at The Portland Co.] for the short term,” Brady said, noting that Sprague has a long-term operating lease that will allow him to continue to run Portland Yacht Services and the marina facility. The complex will also continue to be the location for the Portland Flower Show and Maine Boatbuilders Show.

Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director, said the sale was significant because of its size and the potential its redevelopment would have on the city’s eastern waterfront.

“Land is scarce. Real estate is scarce on the waterfront in terms of supporting growth and redevelopment,” Mitchell told the BDN. “It’s a very compact and urban community, so whenever parcels of that size change hands it’s significant.”

Brady, a former Olympian who won a silver medal in sailing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is the former president of Olympia Development, the development arm of The Olympia Cos., which bid on the high-profile opportunity to redevelop Portland’s Maine State Pier, a project that ultimately never happened.

He is also the developer behind the plans to redevelop the former Portland Press Herald building on Congress Street into a boutique hotel that will be known as The Press Hotel.

Brady said Monday that he plans to close on the former newspaper building by the end of the year and begin construction on the hotel project during the first quarter of 2014. He said the construction should take a year, and the hotel should be open in time for Portland’s 2015 tourism season.

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