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Updated: February 1, 2022

Time, temp, room service: Portland landmark moves closer to redo as luxury hotel

high-rise building against blue sky Photo / William Hall A current view of the Time & Temperature Building in downtown Portland.

Ninety-eight years since its birth and two years since a proposal was floated for its rebirth, Portland’s iconic Time & Temperature Building may be inching closer to new life as a luxury hotel.

The city’s Historic Preservation Board is scheduled Wednesday to workshop the proposal, which would convert the vacant 14-story tower into a 186-room hotel that includes meeting and banquet rooms, a restaurant, retail space and a rooftop bar overlooking Monument Square.

Courtesy / Archetype
A rendering shows the exterior design now proposed for the historic Time & Temperature Building in downtown Portland.

The Portland Planning Board has already signed off, last week unanimously approving a site plan and inclusionary zoning conditional use application for the project.

The concept for it began in 2020, with a proposal from Portland-based developer Fathom Cos. on behalf of the Presidium Group. Presidium, a Dallas real estate company whose other Maine properties include the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford, purchased the Time & Temp Building at auction in October 2018 for $9.3 million.

An initial proposal for the building got a public debut last summer at workshops with the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Board. Since then, the development team has been quietly refining the redo.

“There’s tons of work going on,” said Darrin Stairs, of the project’s engineering firm, Woodard and Curran, at the Planning Board meeting. “We’re looking forward to bringing this exceptional building back to life.”

Among other changes, valet parking for the hotel would be moved from Congress Street around the corner to Preble Street. The project’s Portland-based architecture firm, Archetype, has drawn up a new design for the exterior of the top two floors. And a new stairway and elevator tower has been reconfigured.

Courtesy / Archetype
A rendering shows what the Congress Street entrance of the new hotel might look like. Despite the sign shown here, the hotel's name has not yet been decided.

The building’s 202,000 square feet of space would include 4,700 square feet for retail use, and the restaurant and rooftop bar would be 2,300 square feet and 5,100 square feet respectively. A parking garage at 45 Brown St. would provide 56 spaces for hotel use.

There’s no name yet for the hotel, Fathom’s director of development, Marieke Thormann, told Mainebiz last week. The hotel could operate under a familiar hotel-chain brand or with an independent identity. Chicago-based Oxford Hotels & Resorts LLC has been hired to manage and operate the property.

The test of time

The Time & Temperature Building is actually four downtown structures combined over the past decades: the Chapman Building at 477 Congress St., the Preble House at 481 Congress St., a structure at 10-20 Preble St. and the B.F. Keith Theatre at 22 Preble St. The Chapman Building, which was originally 12 stories and then topped with two more, dates to 1924.

The Chapman Building and some of the adjoining space housed a succession of banks as well as prominent office tenants. But in recent years, the Time & Temp began showing its age.

Maintenance was deferred and vacancies increased. By 2016, when it entered foreclosure, the building had an occupancy rate of 60%, the Portland Press Herald then reported. When Presidium acquired the property, the starting bid was $2.75 million. In 2020, the last financial tenant, TD Bank, moved out.

The Time & Temp complex takes its name from a 30-foot-wide, 9-foot-high rooftop light display that has flashed the time, temperature and sometimes advertising messages since then-anchor tenant Casco Bank added the sign in 1964. A familiar landmark to generations of Portlanders and Portland visitors, the sign can be seen for miles.

The sign design is one of the significant elements that needs to be worked out.

Photo / William Hall
The Congress Street entrance of the Time & Temperature Building would serve as the hotel's front doors, while valet parking would be around the corner on Preble Street.

“The rooftop sign will be upgraded to align with the current historic size and intent, but the final design is not complete,” Thormann said.

While the revised proposal is “responsive” to earlier feedback from the Historic Preservation Board, the HPB meeting notes say “it will also be important to have more information about any proposed alterations to the Time & Temp sign … This sign has become an iconic element in Portland’s skyline and any changes in character will need to be carefully considered.”

The development team is seeking historic tax credits for the project and so changes like this will need to stick to guidelines from the National Park Service and will be reviewed by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The team has hired Scott Hanson of MacRostie Historic Advisors to develop the historic tax credits application.

Those reviews would begin if the Historic Preservation Board ultimately approves the proposal. (The board meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday for the workshop, and more information can be found here.) Permitting and construction would then take about two years.

The first modern time-and-temp sign was installed in 1953 on the roof of the Seattle First National Bank building in Washington. During the '60s and '70s, the signs became trendy at banks across the U.S. One manufacturer, American Sign and Indicator Corp., eventually installed over 7,000 of the digital displays nationwide.

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February 19, 2022

Yeah the rendering does not have the actual time and temp display at the top, and instead only the rooftop lounge area. As the other commenter mentioned, the flag they put in their rendering is upside down. Shows you how much the developers are taking care to ensure the historic nature of the building.

February 1, 2022

It looks like a great new use for that landmark— it’s unfortunate the artist who did the rendering included the Maine State flag upside down….

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