58 Fore Street on the Portland waterfront will be home to a new, 150 room, full-service boutique hotel according to a press release issued by West Elm Hospitality, a new division of the furniture chain, today. Building # 5, is to be converted into the aforesaid hotel and It’s anticipated that it will open in 2020.
Some of the amenities are: 150 guest rooms, a lobby bar and restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, an outdoor pool, and retail spaces curated at the historic core of the development next to the hotel. Those are buildings 6 and 6A which will be restored and serve as retail and office space likely according to Kevin Costello, a member of CPB2 LLC, the owners of the almost 10-acre property in an email to mhn.com late today. The developer for the hotel is the Portland Foreside Development Co. LLC. It’s a new neighborhood to be called Portland Foreside replacing the name the Portland Company.
“Portland has experienced a renaissance within the past decade, creating a distinct and modern vibe, while honoring its maritime history,” said Peter Fowler, vice president of West Elm Hospitality in the press release. “Our collaboration with Portland Foreside Development Co. brings forth local knowledge and expertise that will deliver an original experience for guests, as well as the surrounding seaside community………..”
“The hotel development will need to go through the site plan approval process with the planning board, but it will not need to go through the Historic Preservation board process,” said Kevin Costella in an email to mhn.com.
For the past 25 years or so, buildings 6 and 6A have been the operations base for the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum & Railroad – the two buildings scheduled to be restored and used for retail and office spaces. Back in 1992, a group of rail fans led by Phineas Sprague, Jr. relocated a large part of the Edaville Railroad, South Carver, MA. to his waterfront property, 58 Fore Street. But when Sprague’s plans called for the sale of the property years ago, the mini-railroad began searching for a new location. For years now, the two-footers have planned on moving their equipment and rides to a large plot of land behind the Gray Plaza, Gray.
However, locating funding for this expensive proposition has proven to be a futile effort so far. Original estimates to move all the equipment, purchase the property, build a station and lay two foot tracks was $14 M, It was then reduced to $10 M and now downsized to $7 M according to a board member today at the mini-railroad. When the two-footers relocated from South Carver to Portland in 1992, the massive project was carried out by volunteers. The late Irv Bickford, an antique truck collector, was a prime organizer of the move.
Late this afternoon, Katherine Geren, a volunteer and board member of the mini-railroad said: “We are caught between a rock and a hard spot.” She was unaware of the hotel plans announced today, but did say that the railroad needs to be out of 58 Fore Street by the end of the year. Donnie Carroll, executive director of the two-footers is on vacation until next week.
Whether or not the annual Polar Express fundraiser will go forward is uncertain at this time.
Lastly, the manager at the newly opened West Elm furniture store in the Old Port said today that she learned this morning of the construction of the boutique hotel at 58 Fore Street from corporate headquarters in New York. Contrary to local press reports, West Elm Hospitality is building one (1) waterfront hotel, not two (2). In other words, It is “fake news” that West Elm Hospitality will be building a second hotel at the former Rufus Deering Lumber Company, Commercial Street.