Development plan approved for Congress Street block with hotel, condos and shops

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 approximately 11,500 square feet, a 5,100 square foot restaurant, recreation space and more than 330 parking spaces, would be built in four phases, starting with the hotel. Rendered courtesy of CBT Architecture.

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

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

The plan provides a basic outline of the project, although subsequent site plans for each phase and other approvals are required.

“This project and the phasing looks good to me and I think it will (improve) an underutilized property in the city,” council vice chairman Brandon Mazer said ahead of the vote.

The proposed development includes the site of the former Portland Press Herald printing works – and is therefore called “Herald Square” – and includes three adjoining buildings, including a 156-room hotel, 297 condominiums, seven retail units totaling approximately 11,500 square feet, a 5,100 square foot restaurant, recreation space and over 330 parking spaces.

Joe Dasco, the project’s operating partner 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 built by The Fathom Companies, could be submitted before the end of the month and that Reger Dasco is considering filing a site plan application. for the first phase of condominiums this fall. .

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

Plans submitted to the city call for four phases of the project to be completed after demolishing the two existing structures on the site, which is currently used primarily for parking, although some phases may be built concurrently.

Phase 1 includes construction of the 12-story, 157,600-square-foot hotel, nine condos, the restaurant, part of the retail and parking spaces, and part of a “terrace landscaped amenity, including a public promenade and green spaces separating condo units and fitness and meeting spaces.

Phase 2 envisions a 14-story building with 110 condominiums, 4,000 square feet of retail space and 148 gated 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 81 more condos.

Council heard public comments on the project from just one person on Tuesday evening, although four written submissions were received on topics including traffic flow and support for the planting of new street trees and l landscaping as a component of the project.

George Rheault, a frequent critic of city government, questioned whether council was in a position to approve a waiver for the project and raised concerns about pedestrian views at street level and safety around a staircase from Myrtle Street to the Pleasure Terrace.

Development team staff responded by saying that the site plan request process will include more details of the frontage of a ground floor parking area which would include some sort of screen such as artwork or vegetation, and that while there are no physical security guards at the Myrtle Street stairs, design elements such as a door that closes outside office hours are at the study.

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