August 5, 2013

Developer delays project at newspaper's former home

Jim Brady of Yarmouth intends to start building a 110-room luxury hotel early next year.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - A developer who plans to convert the former Portland Press Herald building into a boutique hotel has delayed construction by several months to secure financing and collaborate with prominent interior designers in the hotel industry.

click image to enlarge

The former Portland Press Herald building at 390 Congress St. is located in Portland’s Congress Street Historic District.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Developer Jim Brady of Yarmouth had partnered with Kevin Bunker at the Developers Collaborative in Portland. The team had planned to start construction this summer after winning project approvals from the Planning Board, Historic Preservation Board and City Council earlier this year.

But faced with a complicated financing plan, Brady said he bought out Bunker's interest in the project in March.

"I still had a lot of confidence in the project," said Brady, a former Olympic yachtsman who previously headed The Olympia Cos. development firm.

Bunker couldn't be reached for comment Friday or Sunday.

Now Brady is seeking historic preservation tax credit financing though the National Park Service and new market tax credit financing for economic redevelopment projects through the Finance Authority of Maine, he said. He declined to discuss the project's costs at this time.

Built in 1923 and expanded in 1947, the building at 390 Congress St. and 119 Exchange St. is located in the Congress Street Historic District. It's also across from City Hall, which was built in 1909 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The former newspaper building was sold in 2009 and has been empty since mid-2010, when the staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram moved to the One City Center building on Monument Square.

Under a new time line, construction would start early next year and a 110-room luxury hotel would open in the spring of 2015, Brady said. It would include a street-level restaurant with its main entrance on Congress Street. The hotel's entrance would be on Exchange Street.

Brady said the building has been under contract with his development company for about a month and he intends to retain ownership of the property rather than sell it to a hotel chain or another company.

In September, Brady plans to announce a more complete development plan for the hotel, including a name and an interior design scheme that would pay subtle homage to the building's newspaper heritage. The project also would preserve various interior and exterior architectural features.

Brady has hired The Via Agency of Portland to develop the hotel's branding theme. The interior designer for the project is Stonehill & Taylor, a New York City firm that has worked on many prominent boutique hotels, including the Ace, Refinery and Crosby Street hotels in Manhattan.

Archetype Architects and Thornton Tomasetti, both of Portland, are drawing up building-conversion plans that would be historically sensitive, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable.

The redevelopment plan calls for removing the exterior fire escape on the building's Federal Street side and extending the interior stairway from the second to the seventh floor, Brady said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:


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