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June 16, 2022

WBRC transforms former Rite Aid as new office in Portland's Woodfords Corner

Courtesy / WBRC Inc. WBRC Inc. architect and senior principal Richard Borrelli, left, with Jocelyn Boothe, architect and principal, right, stand before WBRC's new Portland offices.

Engineering, architecture and design firm WBRC Inc. has transformed a former Rite Aid store in Portland as its new office, giving it ample parking, good lighting and the opportunity for signage on the busy Forest Avenue thoroughfare.

WBRC leased 6,253 square feet at 701 Forest Ave. from CAM Cony LLC. John Finegan of the Boulos Co. was the agent for the landlord, while Justin Lamontagne of the Dunham Group represented the tenant. 

WBRC, which was founded in Bangor 120 years ago, previously had space at 30 Danforth St. in Portland. It outgrew that location and wanted easier parking. 

“We had been looking at various locations. Still being in Portland is very important to us,” said Richard Borrelli, senior principal of WBRC. “About 30 sites were in the running. We whittled it down to six. We preferred this site because other places were disjointed and here we’re all in one room.”

“We’re part of a company that has been in Bangor since 1902. While we expanded to Florida 20 years ago and have been in Portland for over a decade, not everyone necessarily knows how far our reach is. This highly visible location will help people know that WBRC is in Portland, too,” Borrelli said. “Our previous location had no opportunity for exterior signage. We’re excited to have our name in lights from two angles on this highly-visible thoroughfare.”
WBRC employs 60 professionals including architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, designers, and support people. Twenty-two of those staffers are in the Portland location.

Being an engineering, architecture and design firm, WBRC designed the revamping of the Rite Aid to fit its unique needs of collaboration and meeting space. 

“We had three interior designers who have joined us recently, and they all jumped in to help with the interior design process,” said Jocelyn Boothe, principal and senior architect with WBRC.

The landlord, Tony McDonald, partner with the Boulos, initially took a few days to think about WBRC as tenants, but ultimately decided to move forward.

“I’m not usually drawn to work with office clients when I’m converting a retail space. They tend to move often and need to rework interiors. With WBRC, we have an organization that is both local to Maine, not some international conglomerate, and that has been around for a long time. Their design for the renovation transformed the space without any major structural changes. It’s been a pleasure to work with them,” McDonald said. 
WBRC sees the new location as an opportunity to draw people who have worked remotely for two years back to the office.

“WBRC’s leadership team recently agreed, it’s time to get people back to the office. Our intent with this new space is to make it so comfortable and engaging that people love working here and prefer it over working from home,” Boothe said.
“The office is no longer just a place where people work on projects. Much of the time you really can just do that from home. The office is now the place where we meet and collaborate. The ability to share and build on each other’s ideas is key to what we do here. A lot of our decision-making is visual and tactile. You can’t select brick or carpeting on a screen,” said Michael Johanning, a WBRC principal, project manager and architect.
“Coming into the office at least part-time is especially important for mentoring younger professionals. Important learning happens when you’re working together side by side on a project. It’s not something you can get from a virtual meeting,” Borrelli said. 
WBRC’s Portland branch opened in 2006, when WBRC was awarded the contract for the design of Ocean Avenue Elementary School. That school is just down the street from its new offices. Major projects in and around Portland include South Portland Middle School, Aura, and the Cross Insurance Arena Renovation/Expansion.
WBRC’s Portland-based healthcare team recently designed two replacement hospitals, Northern Light CA Dean Hospital and Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital, as well as major projects on VA Medical Center campuses in Augusta, Manchester, N.H., and Providence, R.I.

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