Despite the nasty weather on Wednesday, GrowSmart Maine staff and Board member Carl Eppich were treated to a tour of the new Press Hotel, currently under construction in the old Press Herald building in Portland. For those of you who don't know the building, it takes up the whole block between Congress and Federal Streets on the north and south and Market and Exchange Streets on the east and west.
Jim Brady of Red Group, LLC, owner, and Michael Strejcek, general manager, took us from the sub-basement to the penthouse, describing the unique features of the historic building and how it will be transformed into a boutique hotel and restaurant. Both Red Group, LLC and Wright Ryan, general contractor on the project, are business members of GrowSmart Maine.
The restaurant, on the Congress Street end of the building, is being created by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows fame and will feature sight lines straight through from Market to Exchange, a great view of City Hall, an open kitchen and J shaped bar.
Picture a marble and walnut wrap-around bar and an open kitchen in the restaurant!
The hotel entrance will be on Exchange Street with the lobby featuring a floating staircase to the level below.
The original entrance on Exchange Street is being restored
Floors above will all be devoted to rooms with a penthouse on the 7th floor featuring an exclusive rooftop deck. There will be another rooftop deck over the lower section on the Congress Street end of the block.
Your view from the Penthouse Suite!
The theme throughout the building has been tastefully linked to its previous use and promises be a treat to the eye and a nod to its newspaper days.
Looking up at the 1st floor in a space that will become a 2 story gallery featuring Maine artists.
Looking down into the gallery space from the 1st floor
I was interested to learn that Jim used both State and Federal historic preservation tax credits as well as Maine's new market credits in financing the project. He said that there were definitely challenges associated with using the historic preservation tax credits but the end result will be well worth it.
Historic Features such as this moulding and railings will be restored and preserved
Equally interesting were two architectural features that won't be visible once the renovation is complete but are historically relevant. One is the tunnel that runs under Congress Street to what was the old press building. The tunnel was not included in the sale to Jim and will be blocked off at the Press Hotel basement.
In addition, the footprint of the basement is larger than the first floor because it extends under the sidewalk on Exchange Street. Jim doesn't own that part of the building in any traditional sense but the historic agreement with the City of Portland, the owner of the space, remains in place. It will be used primarily for storage.
Looking under the sidewalk on Exchange Street
When completed in April 2015, as many as 70 people will once again be busily at work in the old Press Herald Building. I, for one, can't wait to visit again.