By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,210)
“Despite the sale of the property at 58 Fore Street, we have negotiated an extra year for these two shows at the same location,” said Phin Sprague, Jr. earlier today. What have become spring traditions will not be interrupted, at least not this year. Sprague was trying to reassure the public that the sale of almost ten acres of land last year to a development team managed by Jim Brady will not negatively impact the Boatbuilders Show and the Flower Show
Sprague who is building a yacht and commercial vessel boatyard – New Yard – on the west end of Commercial Street is at least year behind this development because the MaineDOT took by eminent domain eighteen acres of New Yard property for EIMSKIP’s transportation needs on the Portland waterfront earlier this year. Although Sprague is a strong supporter of the EIMSKIP move to Portland, it has interfered with his plans for New Yard and more.
The original plans for New Yard had called for two separate storage buildings on the property. They were both intended to house the annual Flower Show and Boatbuilders Show in those buildings. Each building was 30,000 sq. ft in size so there would have been a total of 60,000 sq. ft. dedicated to the two annual shows. But the seizure by MaineDot thwarted this plan. That’s why Sprague has negotiated with the “Brady Bunch” to rent the same Portland Company Complex to use the same buildings in 2015. Vendors for both shows have been notified of this information.
Meanwhile, Building B is under construction and can be seen from Commercial Street. It is anticipated that it will bed ready for occupancy by December 31st. The foundation for B is using the former foundation for the China clay silo according to Sprague. The rectangular silo was used to store “kaolinite, ” a product used to make paper shiny in the paper industry. The original foundation is covered by colorful graffiti which Sprague intends to save. The kaolinite came in by ship, was unloaded onto trains and then transported to mills – probably about 20 of them – that had access to Maine Central Railroad and the Canadian National Railroad.
At one time, the :Portland Glass Works was located on the property, J.B. Brown had a molasses factory on site there and the Cumberland and Oxford Canal was located there. While no signs of it have been located, Sprague has enlisted the assistance of J. N. Leith Smith, Ph.S., historical archaeologist, for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, August, to help document these discoveries.
Sprague currently has 12 3/4 acres on West Commercial Street under contract from Pan Am Railways. The closing on the property is subject to a successful permitting process, although that has not yet begun. (Probably next year.)
“I have no plan for the two shows for 2016, so I have to figure it out,” said a frustrated Sprague.