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August 5, 2019

Key piece of 58 Fore St. project goes back to Portland preservation board

Photo / Jim Neuger The Portland Co. Building 12 at 58 Fore St., seen last winter before the addition, at left, was removed. The building will be dismantled and rebuilt 50 feet to the south as the site is developed.

The Portland Historic Preservation Board Wednesday will discuss preliminary plans to dismantle and relocate a signature building at 58 Fore St., a key piece to redevelopment of the 10-acre property for mixed retail, office and residential use.

The board endorsed the redevelopment master plan for the property in December 2016, but had reservations about historic integrity of some of the additions and renovations. In February the board approved the plan to dismantle and move Building 12, the former Pattern Storehouse.

At Wednesday's meeting, architect Henry Moss of Bruner Cott Architects, of Boston, will present Portland Foreside Development Co.'s preliminary design proposal for the reconstruction of Building 12.

The three-story, 125-year-old brick building with the iconic "Portland Co." sign painted on it will be disassembled, then reconstructed, brick by brick, to historic specifications about 50 feet from its current location. The city's historic preservation officials have said that may be a first for the city. Planned uses are for a first-floor restaurant, with offices on the upper floors.

The building is too deteriorated to be moved in one piece. A wedge-shaped addition, Building 11, which was built about 10 years after Building 12, was removed earlier this year.

The building's move south of where it is now prompted the city to redraw the Portland Co. Historic District to accommodate the relocation. Developers are moving the building because a new road grade would block it from view.

The board approved the plan after reviewing historic documentation and agreement to salvage the masonry. Wednesday's workshop will focus on the reconstruction of the original masonry shell and duplication of the building’s key exterior features, as well as design modifications proposed to accommodate planned uses, according to agenda materials.

The board makes recommendations to the planning board, and the city council has the final say.

Courtesy / Sutherland Conservation and Consulting
A rendering of the property at 58 Fore St. in Portland shows Bulding 12, the former Pattern Storehouse, at the top left-hand corner, including a wedge-shaped addition that was removed this year.

'Signature building'

"Building 12 is today the signature building associated with the historic Portland Company complex and will play a key role in announcing the historic complex as one approaches from the west and as viewed from the harbor," the board staff's report for the workshop says. "The architectural character of Building 12 is defined in great part by its simplicity of form and detail. As such, additions and alterations to this building need to be carefully considered and, in staff’s view, limited to the greatest extent possible. In staff’s view, of the remaining historic Portland Company structures, this building is the most sensitive to alteration." 

The report commended much of the effort to keep the design historically accurate, but says there are concerns "about the cumulative effect of the additions and alterations proposed."

It said that some of the proposed changes can be accommodated without unduly altering the historic character of the building. But in the aggregate, proposed changes "materially impact the building’s essential historic character."

The report acknowledges "the competing requirements and interests that complicate any adaptive reuse of this structure," but stresses "the importance of preserving the clarity and simplicity of its form and architectural expression needs to remain front and center in any project planning."

The architects' report for the meeting stressed the design is in its preliminary phase.

Bruner Cott, which is also the architect on the Maine Children's Museum and Theatre Thompson Point project in Portland, is working with Consigli Construction on the 58 Fore St. project.

Built in 1895, the Pattern Storehouse was part of a larger locomotive manufacturing complex on the site, which opened in 1847. According to Sutherland Conservation and Consulting, of Augusta, which did a report for the city about the Fore Street site, it has national historic significance as one of the first complexes in the U.S. built for manufacturing railroad equipment, with all the necessary shops and foundry in one location. The site is also one of the few remaining in the U.S. with many of its buildings intact.

The Portland Co. development was proposed five years ago and the first significant piece — the 150-slip Fore Points Marina — opened in May.

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