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Updated: June 21, 2022

‘Urban home’ concept to expand along Old Port’s Middle Street

wood floor and furniture COURTESY / COMMONWEALTH HOTELS All the units at 121 Middle St. include kitchens and living spaces.

Plans are in the works to expand an “urban inn” that launched in 2019 in Portland’s Old Port.

The inn's concept has been redubbed “urban homes” and now includes four buildings along Middle Street. The short- and long-stay residential units in the buildings have been named the Docent’s Collection.

121 Middle St.

The original “urban inn” was called 121 Middle and was a joint venture of Portland real estate firm East Brown Cow Management and Kentucky-based hotel operator Commonwealth Hotels.

The inn, at 121 Middle St., features 17 rooms on the second and third floors of the historic Thompson Block. Floor plans include two-bedroom, one-bedroom and studio units, and each unit has a kitchen and living space.

old building and cars
Constructed for commercial use in 1867, 121 Middle St. in Portland’s Old Port was the first in a local developer’s “urban home” collection.

The idea was to combine virtual versions of check-in and other functions, common among short-term rental properties, with traditional hotel amenities.

The Thompson Block, a four-story brick building with a mansard roof, was constructed for commercial use in 1867 after Portland’s Great Fire and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The inn represented the building’s first use as a residence.

115 Middle St.

This week, East Brown Cow and Commonwealth Hotels said they rebranded 121 Middle as the Docent’s Collection. 

They said they are now calling the units “urban homes.” Two more of the units were recently completed at 115 Middle St., which neighbors 121 Middle St.

115 Middle St. is an early-20th-century building known as the Abraham Robinson Block. The units there will be the collection’s first three-bedroom units.

The expansion reflects the success of 121 Middle St., according to a news release. The new units — which also include fully equipped kitchens, large dining and living areas, and furnishings — will continue the combination of mobile-first service, amenities associated with luxury residential rentals and hotel service.

178 and 184 Middle St.

Plans are now in the works to expand the collection down a few blocks to neighboring 178 Middle St. and 184 Middle St.

East Brown Cow paid $11.7 million for the two buildings plus a third neighboring building in January 2021.

Built in the 19th century, 178 Middle St. is known as the Boyd Block and 184 Middle St. is known as the William Widgery Thomas Block.

old buildings and cars
On the left is 178 Middle St., with the smaller 184 Middle St. next to it.

The upper floors of the two buildings are being converted into 19 one- and two-bedroom “urban home” units that are anticipated to open in the winter of 2023.

The expansion of collection “represents an intentional investment in the preservation of historic properties and the creation of meaningful connections within Portland's fast-changing downtown,” said Tim Soley, president and CEO of East Brown Cow. 

The units feature interior design by Portland-based Ealain Studio and pieces from Maine makers such as Auburn furniture maker Thos. Moser, Portland landscape architect Anthony Muench and Lewiston artist Tanja Hollander. 

Commonwealth Hotels provides hospitality management services. Customers can customize their level of engagement with the management, said Avery Windham, a marketing manager. 

The rebrand was accompanied by a new logo and website, which includes a searchable direct booking engine.

The term “docent” was selected as a nod to museums and art.

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