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October 27, 2022 On the record

On the Record: At Portland’s Fathom Cos., Marieke Thormann builds on her construction and engineering background

Photo / Jim Neuger Marieke Thormann, vice president of development at Fathom Cos., at the firm’s office at 80 Exchange St. in Portland.

Marieke Thormann, a licensed professional engineer who grew up in Vermont, was recently promoted to vice president of development, at Fathom Cos., Jim Brady’s Portland-based hospitality management and real estate development firm. Fathom operates two hotels (Portland’s Press Hotel and Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront Hotel) and three restaurants, with six additional projects — mixed-use, hotel and residential — in predevelopment.

Mainebiz: What first sparked your interest in engineering?

Marieke Thormann: I have always enjoyed math and was drawn to the concept of building to improve, enhance and support communities.

MB: Working in a male-dominated field, to what extent have you missed having female role models or mentors?

MT: I never had a female mentor or even supervisor, but I am fortunate that throughout my career I have always been supported by strong male mentors who advocated for my growth, experience and qualifications, which I think in a male-dominated field is equally, if not more valuable, than having a female mentor. I always knew that I would often be the only female at the table, and all I can hope is that the work I do will only make it easier for more women to be leaders in the industry.

MB: What are some projects you worked on before joining Fathom?

MT: My career has been split between the Washington, D.C., area while working for Clark Construction and then here in Portland at PC Construction. Locally, I managed the construction of the Hiawatha apartment building for Redfern Properties and was involved in pre-construction for many other projects, including the new IDEXX Synergy East office building in Westbrook.

MB: Why did you leave construction, and what has the transition been like to development?

MT: I loved working in construction and never would have left the industry fully — I felt that Fathom was a rare opportunity to combine the areas of construction that I am most passionate about. The transition felt natural and was mostly a shift in perspective from ‘how to build a project’ to ‘how to create a project that can be built and meet the project goals,’ and then learning to manage the new parts of the process that I had only seen from the lens of a construction manager.

MB: You have mentioned land acquisition as a unique aspect of developing the Canopy Portland Waterfront hotel. Can you explain?

MT: The acquisition only included a small portion of a larger development parcel and therefore required the design for the Canopy Portland Waterfront hotel to be coordinated with the potential future phases, this acquisition structure is similar to other urban infill sites in Portland like our 385 Congress St. hotel project.

MB: What niche will Fathom’s planned hotel at 385 Congress St. seek to fill in a city full of hotels?

MT: The hotel will include a modern design aesthetic that we hope will contrast yet complement the existing luxury hotel product and support the growing demand in Portland.

MB: With the Pearl Street Riverfront District in Biddeford, what’s the vision and how will the economics work out given that the rental income is lower than Portland?

MT: The vision is to create a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that expands the current downtown Biddeford area and supports the recent growth in the market. We are still in the planning and permitting stage, but it is a challenge since construction pricing is the same as Portland and we do not have the same financing options as the other mill/building renovations in Biddeford.

MB: What can you share about the planned mass-timber condominium building?

MT: We are hoping to provide a residential product in Biddeford that currently doesn’t exist by not only contrasting the mills with a for-sale product that highlights large windows, exposed wood ceilings, and open loft style layouts, but also reducing the embodied carbon of the building by utilizing a sustainable construction type.

MB: Outside of Maine, what markets are most attractive for Fathom and why?

MT: We are targeting tertiary markets along the East Coast that are similar to Portland a decade ago. We look for strong or growing food and beverage scenes with easy access to transportation and the need for a more boutique hotel product.

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