Portland considers spending nearly $3 million to buy building, consolidate departments

Posted March 03, 2014, at 10:24 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The city of Portland is considering a plan to consolidate divisions of its public services, fire and recreation departments under one roof in a building to be purchased for nearly $3 million on Canco Road.

The plan was given first reading by the City Council at its Monday night meeting, and will need to be approved by a vote after its second reading at a future meeting.

In addition to reducing the municipal government’s footprint, the strategy will free up for sale a city building at 65 Hanover St. in the Bayside neighborhood, where a proposed $150-million development nearby could heat up the market.

The plan calls for the city to spend a total of $230,000 leasing space in a 68,000-square-foot building, set on 4.2 acres of land, at 212 Canco Road for three years. On March 1, 2017, the city would have the option to purchase the property for $2.9 million — an amount greater than the current market appraisal of more than $2.74 million, but lower than the city’s assessed value of nearly $3.1 million, according to a memo distributed to city councilors by Economic Development Director Gregory Mitchell and Finance Director Ellen Sanborn.

The city of Portland already leases space at 212 Canco Road for portions of its fire and emergency response department, and under the three-year lease deal would move part of its traffic and trades divisions over from the now-more-marketable 65 Hanover St. site.

However, the city would need to share space in the Canco Road building in the short-term with private tenants Webber Supply and Unified Technologies, which have leases to occupy a combined 45 percent of the facility until 2018. If the city exercises its purchase option in 2017, it would give the tenants about a year to find new homes and make room for more city departments to fill out the space.

In the plan under consideration by the council, the city’s Emergency Operations Center and school trades division would move to Canco Road in 2018 from their current homes at Portland Arts and Technology High School, which will free up space there for the expansion of the popular Casco Bay High School expeditionary learning program. Also moving to Canco Road would be the city’s playground maintenance and irrigation crews, which are currently housed at a 90 Anderson St. facility, and recreation department staff who now hold down space at the Portland Expo and Cummings Center, respectively.

Mitchell, Sanborn and the council’s Finance Committee, which approved the plan unanimously last week, are recommending to the larger council it use revenues from the sale of the to-be-vacated 65 Hanover St. property to cover the three years of lease payments.

The Hanover Street property is not far from where the proposed $150-million, three-tower, two-parking-garage Midtown project would be located. The $50-million first phase of that development was granted approval by the city’s Planning Board in January, but that approval was challenged by project opponents in a Superior Court lawsuit filed last month.

The cost to purchase the Canco Road property could be covered by a $3.05 million bond authorized by the council in September, when Mitchell and City Manager Mark Rees announced they needed financial flexibility for a consolidation effort, but were not yet ready to release potential sale details or property sites for the move.

 

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