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May 21, 2018

Barrett Made is poised for growth with purchase of Portland's public works property

File photo / Barrett Made Rob Barrett

PORTLAND — The purchase of 52 Alder St. in Portland will give Barrett Made the room it needs to accommodate the construction firm’s growth, while also allowing it to establish innovative collaborative spaces for other firms and individuals.

Barrett Made purchased the property — a 13,009-square-foot mixed-use building and parking lot that’s on the corner of Alder and Hanover streets — from the city of Portland for $1.1 million. Nate Stevens and Vince Ciampi of CBRE | The Boulos Co. and Joe Porta of Porta & Co. brokered the deal, which closed April 5.

The building was formerly used by the city’s public works department. It was one of six parcels, totaling about four acres and bounded by Portland, Parris, Kennebec and Alder streets, that the city listed in April 2017.

Barrett Made is a design build firm offering residential and commercial construction, architecture services, custom millwork and design. The company was founded by Rob Barrett in 2015.

Maker space

The plan for the acquired property involves two phases, said Barrett. The first phase involves renovating the existing building to create offices and workshops for Barrett Made.

“We’re keeping the existing structure and renovating the interior,” said Barrett. His company will occupy about 6,000 square feet. He plans to rent out 1,000 square feet as office space.

Under the name of a new company, The Public Works, he’s renovating the remaining 6,000 square feet to offer space to artists and other creative professionals.

Barrett said he’s had the idea of developing a hub for creative professionals for a while. The Public Works will offer build-to-suit studios, office space, event space and larger workshops. The idea is to provide space for people — like jewelry makers, photographers, furniture builders, metal workers, potters, painters and fashion designers — so they can work together under one roof to establish and grow their businesses. Novices and hobbyists would also be welcome to try out their ideas and display their products.

“The idea is that we bring in people who want to be in a collaborative environment and a shared space that they can help each other grow,” he said.

He’s accepting applications now online.

The building formerly housed the city traffic division’s sign shop and was divided into spaces ranging from warehouse to office, he said.

“So there were a lot of layers in there,” he said. “The majority of what we’ve done in the last month is demolition. A lot of that is removing interior partitions, and we’re stripping it back to the brick walls. We’ll have exposed steel trusses with wood decking above, so it will have a clean, industrial feel. We’ll build back new partitions with drywall, polish the floor, and put in new lighting, new HVAC and a big, 90-kilowatt solar panel array so it will hopefully be a net zero building.”

Plans also call for improving the building exterior and adding green space. Barrett said he expects to have phase one completed for move-in by this fall.

The space is much needed for his business he said.

Plans for residences

Courtesy/ Barrett Made
A rendering of Barrett Made's new headquarters at 52 Alder St. in Portland.

The second phase involves construction of a market-rate apartment building. Plans tentatively provide for six stories within a 12,000-square-foot footprint, with 25 residential units and ground-floor retail. The building will be sited on the property’s 14,000-square-foot parking lot.

“The city definitely wanted housing, and that’s what I want, too,” Barrett said.

In the plan proposal he submitted to the city, he wrote, “We all know there is a housing shortage in Portland and my aim is to provide affordable, modern, and central housing for lower-to-middle-income people. We see this is being a vibrant and ‘cool’ place to live.”

He further wrote, “My goal is to make this a creative hub and an exciting addition to the city. It will provide a place for a community of people to expand on their interests, learn from their peers, and be exposed to opportunities all under the same roof. This would be a highly beneficial and positive endeavor for myself, my business, many Portlanders and the city of Portland.”

Barrett said he plans to break ground on Phase 2 within three years.

Growing business

Courtesy / Barrett Made
The property at 52 Alder St. in Portland is now being renovated.

Barrett, a Portland native, used to work for a larger firm in Portland, but always wanted his own company. “So I waited out the recession and hit the ground running,” he said.

He opened his business on a lease at 48 Union Wharf in Portland’s Old Port, with 1,300 square feet for the office and 1,500 square feet for the shop. He chose the site for its central location and “authentic” feel.

“I always wanted to start a company on the water,” he said. “When I started looking for space, it just happened that space on the Union Wharf was available. It came with an overhead door and we had a garage bay and I had enough space for an office and design studio. Plus it was affordable.”

In the beginning, it was just him, another carpenter and an apprentice.

His first project was a renovation for David Wood Clothiers on Commercial Street, performing all of the custom millwork and other aspects in collaboration with the project’s interior designer. But after a year, the space proved too small to accommodate his rapidly growing company. Today, he employs 22 and the operation is bursting the building’s seams.

Speaking with Mainebiz by telephone, Barrett said he was standing at a counter because he no longer had room for a desk. His firm has completed some 75 projects; employees can be founded working on perhaps 10 projects at a time. Notable projects include Portland Flea For All, the restoration of L.L.Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean’s historic home gallery and exhibit space in Freeport, and Portland’s first youth hostel — the 12-room Black Elephant Hostel at Hampshire and Newbury streets that’s due to open early this summer. 

Barrett began searching for new space about a year ago. He was attracted to 52 Alder partly for its larger size and potential for additional development, and partly for its location in the evolving Bayside community.

“I love the property,” he said. “It was perfect for us and for what we wanted to do with the building. It’s hard to find a property like this.”

Plus, he added, “It gets me off Commercial Street, which is nice. Commercial Street has been a great place to start and grow our company, but we are in need of the space and parking.”

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