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March 9, 2021

Portland family open to bids for all or part of Union Wharf

Poole brothers on the waterfront File photo / Tim Greenway Brothers Charlie, left, and Malcolm Poole, shown here in 2018 on Portland's waterfront, recently listed Union Wharf on the market.

Portland's Poole family, which has owned Union Wharf for five generations and recently listed it for sale, is in no hurry to sell, Charlie Poole of Proprietors of Union Wharf told Mainebiz on Monday.

"The bottom line is this is something we want to do, but our family is not small," he said in a phone interview, noting that the decision to sell is fair to both tenants and younger family members. They include 15 grandchildren for him and his siblings and a "pile of" great-grandchildren.

"It would be improper to march through time and pass it on to the next generation and have them figure it out," the 67-year-old told Mainebiz. "We've reached that junction where somebody has to look in the mirror and say, 'Now is the time.'"

The 61,872-square-foot property is listed with Chris Craig at NAI The Dunham Group, who opened a call for offers last week and reported lots of interest, as reported by Laurie Schreiber for Mainebiz.

In a Monday phone interview, Poole told Mainebiz that the family is open to an offer for all or part of the wharf. It's one of the oldest structures in Portland, in which the family has invested heavily over the years.

"We've poured millions of dollars back into the property, all with our own privately earned money," he said, adding that "the property is in very good shape."

Current tenants include a number of lobstermen and fishermen who tie up at the pier, as well as marine-related businesses on upper floors of buildings. 

Brushing off any concerns about possible overdevelopment with a new owner, Poole underscored that strict zoning laws forbid construction of anything residential on that side of Commercial Street.

"Going forward," he said, "our interest for whatever part we may sell, is to find a like-minded entity to carry on the tradition of maintaining and working pier and a working waterfront."

Through other ownership structures, the family also owns nearby Widgery Wharf, whose tenants in a recently built office building at 5 Widgery Wharf include FL Putnam Investment Management Co. and NBT Bank; a property at 250 Commercial St.; and South Portland based-Custom Float Services.

Of Union Wharf, Poole underscored "We're just here trying to make this a place that businesses can operate," noting from a practical standpoint that "nothing is forever."

He added: "We've been at this for a long time. I've always viewed myself as a steward to a point in time to carry the torch and improve the property ... It was built in 1793 and every single year since then it's been functioning as a marine platform for businesses. That's still the same today."

Poole also said he'd describe the decision to start a new chapter as being more bitter than sweet saying, "Bitter — yes, sweet — no."

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