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April 28, 2015

Developer buys four buildings for Portland's 'Century Plaza' retail project

Photo / Courtesy of Vandelay Industries LLC
Photo / Courtesy of Vandelay Industries LLC
A rendering of the Century Plaza development. Chipotle Mexican Grill will be one of the anchor tenants.
Photo / Courtesy of Northland Enterprises LLC
Josh Benthien, a partner at Portland-based Northland Enterprises LLC, which is transforming the former Century Tire Co. location into a retail mall.

Commercial real estate development company Northland Enterprises LLC of Portland said it has bought four properties on Marginal Way and Kennebec Street to make way for a retail mall it has renamed Century Plaza.

Northland bought 45 Marginal Way, a site occupied for 88 years by Century Tire Co. before it closed in February 2014. It also purchased 1 Marginal Way, 200 Kennebec St. and 202 Kennebec St. The total cost to buy the properties and the price to redevelop them will be $7.5 million, Josh Benthien, a partner at Northland, told Mainebiz.

Northland, formed in 2001, is a development entity that forms LLCs to run its various projects. The Century Plaza project is being run by Vandelay Industries LLC, incorporated in 2012 and located in Northland's Portland headquarters.

Vandelay raised all of a $1.375 million equity offering, according to a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission document filed in late April. There were 12 investors: seven in Maine, three in New Hampshire, and one each in New York and California. Benthien and his business partner Rex Bell also added money to push the total raised to $1.575 million.

The money was used to buy the properties, whose sale closed on April 17, and for redevelopment. Bangor Savings Bank is providing the rest of the money for the acquisition and construction, says Benthien.

Vandelay Industries is named after the fictional company that Seinfeld character George Costanza used when asked where he was interviewing while on unemployment, Benthien said.

Sales of all four properties, which were owned by Atlantic Bayside Investments, were handled by Joseph Porta, broker and partner at CBRE | The Boulos Company.

The Portland Maine Assessor's Online Database lists Atlantic Bayside as the owner of all four properties as of April 2014. As of that date, the land and buildings at 45 Marginal Way, also listed at 195 Kennebec St., were assessed at $1.45 million. The 1 Marginal Way property was assessed at $499,500, 200 Kennebec St. at $109,800 and 202 Kennebec St. at $160,400.

Work may start in May

The sale of the Century Tire land clears the way for commercial development. Benthien says the company also received approval April 14 for its site plan after a Level II administrative review by the city. It now is waiting for a construction permit for 45 Marginal Way, which it hopes to get in time to start rebuilding work there in early May, as well as on the 200 Kennebec St. property. Benthien says he hopes to wrap up work by the end of December 2015 so tenants can begin moving in and prepare to open their shops by next spring.

"The anchor tenants will be Chipotle and a T-Mobile retail store, and we will fill out the rest of the space with a high-quality local and national retail tenants," he said, saying the space is not new, but close to Class A commercial space in quality. Chipotle Mexican Grill is a restaurant chain in the United States, Canada and several European countries.

The original effort to sign a deal with Dunkin' Donuts did not pan out, so Vandelay still is looking for one or two tenants for the front part of the 45 Marginal Way building. The side of the building on Kennebec Street, also considered the back of the building, will be reduced in size by about three quarters, he said, and could house up to three future tenants.

The lease rate for the front of the building tenants is about $45 per square foot, and it will be in the mid-$30 range for tenants on the Kennebec Street rear building, Benthien said.

One Marginal Way already is fully leased, including to car rental agency Enterprise.

Benthien added that Portland is eager to see improvements to the site, including continuation of the Bayside lighting plan and an extension of the walking/running trail in that part of town.

Last month, Northland said that it was considering converting 2,700 square feet of commercial property at 200 Kennebec St. into studio space for artists and fine crafts people.

The Century Plaza area is close to Interstate 295, Forest Avenue and Marginal Way, as well as businesses such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

Though Benthien said he has received a healthy number of inquiries from potential tenants, concerns about parking in the high-traffic neighborhood have proven to be an obstacle. He said he's hoping to work with the city to add street parking, possibly on Kennebec Street or Brattle Street.

Northland Enterprises has been managing and re-developing commercial real estate since 2001 in Maine elsewhere in the northeast United States. Its projects include the historic $4.5 million Baxter Library redevelopment in Portland, and the $11.5 million, 66,500-square-foot Sanford Mill in Sanford.

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