A proposed redevelopment of property on Washington Avenue into, The Washington Baths, was received by the city last October. A first-floor sauna, hydrotherapy, mediation space and related sauna culture uses are proposed for 143R/145 Washington Avenue. The proposed “bathhouse” space will vary between open-air courtyards, structure, levels and uses according to a letter from Will Savage, P.E. of Acorn Engineering, Inc. to the city. Akasha 155 LLC is the applicant, Asher Woodworth, owner.
The business will be modeled after public bathhouses and saunas found in cities in the US and around the world, whereby visits pay for use of the facilities for a duration of time and they largely self-service to create their own experience. The basic elements of a public bath are heat, cold, rest and sociability according to the Savage letter.
The program offerings at The Washington Baths will include showers, two wood-fired saunas, resting areas in the interior of the building, resting benches with an open air court yard, a lare, heated soaking tub in the courtyard, a cold plunge in the courtyard and an interior lounge with a small food service. Modest locker rooms will be provided for men and women. There will also be small retail footprint.
Sauna culture is most established in places where it is cold and dark for a considerable portion of the year. Maine has cold, dark winters, but no public sauna culture, yet. POrtland is the urban and cultural center of Maine. People in Portland are already familiar with saunas, ad they have responded enthusiastically to the suggestion of a public bath in town
“The Baths are intended to be affordable and accessible so that they can become a part of people’s everyday life, as opposed to a speciality retreat,” according to the Savage letter to the city.
A public hearing on the application is on the planning board agenda for Tuesday, October 8th at 7:00 pm at city hall.