By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,159)
“Don’t blink, because Building B will be here before you know it,”said an upbeat Phin Sprague, Jr., today at his office on the New Yard property on West Commercial Street. Building B will be delivered to New Yard on September 15th and will require many truck loads to get all the pieces in place to be erected – all in time for New Yard to be up and running at full capacity by the end of 2014.
The steel Building B is 180 ft. by 160 ft., somewhat larger than Building A that is already in place and currently used to store boats requiring indoor storage. (It’s actually 40 ft. x 20 ft. larger.) The western side of Building B will have a gigantic door – 40 ft.by 50 ft. – necessary to get a travel lift into the building eventually. That is necessary to accommodate large vessels such as the Spirit of Massachusetts, ferry boats and a fire boat which Sprague hopes to service at some future date. The rush to get the work done is necessitated by the sale last year of almost 10 acres of land for a mixed-use development at 58 Fore Street to CPB2LLC, (code for Jim Brady, Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello. Last week the investors filed an application for a zoning change with the city.)
“It’s brutal to deal with the MaineDOT. It is the sovereign and the sovereign plays by the sovereign’s rules,” said Sprague grimacing at the experience. “Thank God I live in the U.S. because there is a legal process and in the final analysis, it will be all straightened out. In the meantime, my group of 50 employees are supporting a land acquisition not in my favor.” Sprague said the State paid him about $7 million for the 18 acres it took from him by eminent domain for the acreage it requires to accommodate EIMSKIP’s rail needs at its container shipping facility on West Commercial Street. Although Sprague has been emphatic in his support of the Icelandic comany, this amount of money does not reflect the true value of the 18 acres of already permitted land the State took. He acknowledges he didn’t pay much for the land originally, however. The resolution of this will come in a courtroom, but probably not for another three years. It got so messy that this spring Governor Paul LePage met with Sprague and others in the 58 Fore Street offices.
“EIMSKIP,” is the biggest thing since the Grand Trunk Railroad decided to run out of Portland,” said Sprague. That was back in the 1850s when the Portland Company was built. “It’s important to get it right.”
Sprague has always made it clear that he would not sell the Portland Company until he had a place to relocate his boat yard. He feels a strong responsibility to his 50 employees and their families to be sure their future is secure. “If it were just about me, I’d have gone sailing by now and not pursued this. But it’s not just about me,” he said. Before Jim Brady came along, Sprague had an Australian in his office trying to put a rugby field in where building no. 6 is located. “I looked at him like he had two heads and told him to run and not walk out of my office,” he said upbeat once again.