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December 9, 2022

Presque Isle hotel reopens after $7M investment

hotel entry COURTESY / LOUISE HAMLIN Ignite Presque Isle recently finished renovating the Northeastland Hotel and added a new co-working space and restaurant.

A storied Presque Isle hotel has been renovated and this week reopened under nonprofit ownership.

Leaders of Ignite Presque Isle were joined by local and regional officials, community members and guests to cut the ribbon on the Northeastland Hotel, the new Rodney’s Restaurant and an innovation center designed to serve as a co-working and business development space.

“The Innovation Center is truly the shining star of our efforts,” LeRae Kinney, CEO of Ignite PI, said in a news release. “We are thrilled to see the  vision coming to life and are poised to offer the best of everything to support businesses and tourism to the county.”

The organization invested over $7 million into the project. That included $2.2 million for the acquisition of the 50-room Northeastland, at 436 Main St. in downtown Presque Isle, in May 2021, with plans to renovate it and continue operations, while also building out some of the property as a co-working space and business center.

The hotel was open throughout the renovation.

Courtesy / Dave Allen
Renovations included enlarging and enhancing public spaces such as the lobby.

Ignite Presque Isle is a nonprofit community development organization established in December 2020 to bring together all types of industry and expand business development in Presque Isle.  

The goal is to unify the private and public business sectors through new business, co-working and business development opportunities.  

The Innovation Center and the hotel renovation are the organization’s inaugural project. 

“Since acquisition we have developed a phase one construction project of more than $5 million to rehabilitate the lobby and restaurant and develop the state-of-the-art Innovation Center,” the group said in a fact sheet. “The Innovation Center will serve as the focal point of the community and its economic development, providing co-workspace to aspiring entrepreneurs, a business center to visiting individuals, and a conduit for promoting our diverse region and culture for expansion.”

The original construction budget for phase 1 renovations was set at $2.55 million.

That was upped to $3.891 million due to unexpected infrastructure changes. Phase 1 focused on common areas such as the restaurant, lobby, front desk/reception area, back entrance, restrooms, staff rooms, laundry facility, storage room and a lower lobby entrance for the hotel’s grand ballroom. It also included a cooperative workspace. 

In all, over 8,900 square feet were renovated.

Courtesy / Dave Allen
Ignite Preque Isle reopened the hotel’s restaurant as Rodney’s.

Over 50 vendors and 100 tradespeople were involved with the project, including subcontractors, material suppliers and equipment suppliers. Over 70% of the team is located within 50 miles of the site and all team members are in Maine.

During the demolition, workers uncovered areas where walls had been overlaid numerous times during previous renovations. Some plaster was 3 inches thick. 

Nearly 150,000 pounds of demolition material — plaster, framing, concrete, masonry — was removed from the building.

Ignite PI said the project is a non-traditional approach to serving the community in an innovative and creative way with the intent to revitalize the downtown. 

“As we searched for the future home for our Innovation Hub and co-workspace, the opportunity to acquire the Northeastland Hotel came up,” the organization said. 

Courtesy / Dave Allen
Northeastland’s new innovation center features co-working space.

The site allows Ignite PI to have a prominent location for the Innovation Center within the downtown; to reestablish the restaurant, considered a much-needed business within the city; to inspire the downtown economy and to provide economic growth by providing new jobs for the hotel and restaurant. 

The hotel opened in 1931, on the site of a former hotel that had burned down. The current establishment has served as a popular hub for the Presque Isle community, hosting generations of travelers as well as local weddings, business meetings and civic events.

In 1950, the Northeastland added an elevator, one of the first in Presque Isle, according to the hotel. In 1988, the property was purchased by the local Hedrich family, who owned and operated it until Ignite PI bought it.

The deal was backed partly with a $1.5 million grant from a local philanthropic group, the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation. Ignite PI raised over $280,000 through individual gifts to come up with the balance. Ignite PI received other grants, including some with matching fund challenges, as well as loans to fund the revitalization effort.

“Our new business model, right here in Aroostook County, is one of a small group in the world,” said Ryan Pelletier, Ignite PI board chair. “Our aim is to revitalize ‘main street’ to promote job creation and retention and to support entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses here.”

Renovations included enlarging and enhancing public spaces throughout the hotel to make them more accessible and inclusive, including more seating, better pathways, an upgraded sound system and energy efficient lighting. Since taking ownership, Ignite PI has increased the staff from 14 to 47 full- and part-time employees, increased wages and benefits, and renewed focus on training and development.

An addition to the space is the new Rodney’s, a restaurant named for Mary Smith’s late husband, Rodney Smith. Mary Smith  has been a major supporter of Ignite PI’s efforts through the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation. Rodney’s menu was created by Joseph Everett Smith around local products. The restaurant has opened for dinner, with plans to add breakfast and lunch. 

The centerpiece of the project is the new Innovation Center, a co-working space that’s expected to open in January. The first of its kind in Aroostook County, the Innovation Center will be available to members 24 hours a day through secured access and includes its own technology network and meeting spaces, including two phone booths for private conversations. Individual and corporate memberships will be available at various levels.

Nickerson & O’Day of Brewer was the project’s construction manager. The company’s president and CEO, Karl Ward, said there are many “investments behind the finished walls” in addition to what the eye can see.

“One example is Underwood Electric’s work converting the existing overhead electrical service to an underground entrance,” said Ward. “While this substantial investment is now concealed beneath the parking lot, in its place we have a greatly improved rear main entrance to the hotel."

people and ribbon
Courtesy / Dave Allen
From left, Ignite PI board member Cathy Beaulieu; Nickerson & O'Day’s Tom Umel; Haley Ward’s Matt Carter; Nickerson & O'Day Vice President Wade Poulton; Ignite PI Director of Food & Beverage Rob Ottaviano; Ignite PI board member Kallie Bard; Sarah Akeley; Ignite Board Vice Chair Julie Libby; Ignite CEO LeRae Kinney; Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation board member Deborah Roark; Katahdin Trust Senior Vice President David Cambridge; Ignite PI Board Chair Ryan Pelletier; Ignite reception manager Robert Lavoie; Ignite board member Patricia Sutherland; Executive Chef Joseph Everett Smith; Ignite manager Tammy Scott; Ignite Director of Administration Karen Morgan; sous chef Robert "Biscuits" Courtemanche and head of housekeeping Sandy Michaud.

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December 9, 2022

Many memories of the hotel from the 1940s through high school graduation in 1961. Hoping this will be a spark of future growth & renewal for Presque Isle and all of Aroostook County !

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