Feb. 13--Renovation work has begun to convert the former Portland Press Herald building in downtown Portland into a boutique hotel, and the developer has released new details about the project, including its future operator.
The Press Hotel, scheduled to open April 1, 2015, will be designed and built to showcase the history of newspapers and of Portland itself, with historic photos, locally commissioned artwork and various design choices, according to its developer, Jim Brady.
"We didn't want to create another cookie-cutter kind of feeling here," Brady said.
The Press Hotel will operate under its own brand but will be associated with the Autograph Collection, a portfolio of more than 60 boutique hotels around the globe, he said.
Marriott International Inc. created the Autograph Collection as a separate business venture to market a group of independently branded hotels and provide their guests access to Marriott's reservation system and rewards program, said Brady, a longtime hotel developer who specializes in recycling historic commercial buildings.
The hotel will be managed by Trust Hospitality LLC, a boutique-hotel management firm based in Coral Gables, Fla., he said.
The former Press Herald building, at 390 Congress St., was built in two sections, a seven-story portion in 1923 and a five-story addition in 1948. It has been sitting vacant since the newspaper relocated to One City Center in 2010.
Brady, former president of The Olympia Cos. in Portland, and Kevin Bunker, an advocate for downtown redevelopment, signed an agreement in June 2012 to buy the property from John Cacoulidis, president of Grand Metro Builders of New York Corp.
Cacoulidis had purchased the building in 2009 from the newspaper's parent company, MaineToday Media Inc. He had gutted the interior, with plans to convert the property into an office or mixed-use building, but later opted not to move forward.
Brady has hired Portland-based general contractor Wright-Ryan Construction Inc. to convert the stripped-down building into a hotel with 110 guest rooms, a floating staircase, gallery space, health and fitness center, conference rooms, two bars and a 100-seat restaurant.
Architect David Lloyd, founder of Portland-based Archetype Architects, is the project's lead architect, and the hotel's interior designer is New York-based Stonehill & Taylor Architects.
The restaurant will be designed and operated independently, Brady said. A Miami-based designer, Big Time Design, has been hired to do the work, he said, but the restaurant's overall concept and menu have yet to be determined.
Brady said one of his goals is to get the Press Hotel certified as a sustainable "green building." He has hired Portland-based Gunnar Hubbard, principal and building sustainability practice leader for engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti Inc., to oversee the process of getting the hotel certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The hotel will have no designated parking lot, Brady said. It will contract with nearby parking garages to allow valet parking at those locations, he said, and guests also will have the option of parking on the street.
Because the building is located next to a fire station, Brady said changes to the walls and windows will be made to mitigate noise.
The project's renovation cost is estimated at $10 million, not including the money its owners will save by taking advantage of three types of tax credits. The Press Hotel qualifies for both state and federal historic-building tax credits, as well as state New Markets Tax Credits, which are designed to boost job creation in low-income areas.
The Press Hotel will employ about 70 people, Brady said.
"Without those (tax credits), this building could be sitting empty still for years to come," he said.
The hotel will open at the tail end of a boom in hotel construction and renovation that is expected to add a total of more than 450 rooms to downtown Portland.
The 123-room Hyatt Place hotel is scheduled to open late this spring at Fore and Union streets, along with the 131-room Courtyard by Marriott being built on Commercial Street near the Portland Fish Pier.
In December, the former Eastland Park Hotel at Congress and High streets reopened as the completely renovated Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, with nearly 90 additional rooms.
Despite the major boost in hospitality options, Brady said market research shows there will be enough demand to absorb those extra rooms during peak tourism months.
"There will never be enough rooms for the summertime in Portland, Maine, and there will always be too many rooms in the wintertime," he said.
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:
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