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May 20, 2014 at 12:00 am

New “Jewel” Hotel in a Platinum Setting Honors the Past while Building for the Future

JB Brown leads effort to blend six-story hotel/condo complex into Portland's historic waterfront.

J.B. Brown & Sons, a 176-year-old Portland development company, is adding another landmark-quality development to Portland’s historic waterfront.

The six-story, 113,000-square-foot Marriott Courtyard is expected to open at 321 Commercial St. by Memorial Day weekend. The development also features 14 top-floor condominiums – nine two-bedroom and five one-bedroom – that are reserved for sale and expected to close by late summer.

The $20 million-plus hotel property will be run by Freeport-based Maine Course Hospitality Group. According to the Marriott reservation system, on a Saturday night in June, rooms will range from $229 for one with a king-sized bed to $429 for a two-room luxury suite.

The 131-room hotel will feature four suites, three meeting spaces, a café featuring Starbucks products. The project also includes a street-level 7,000-square-foot restaurant space.

Retaining an urban feel and honoring the uniqueness of Portland's historic downtown streetscape was important to the J.B. Brown team, as well as to Portland's Planning Board and the city's Historic Preservation Board. To create a boutique hotel that fit with the feel of the area, J.B. Brown received numerous waivers from Marriott Courtyard that deviated from its corporate guidelines including the façade and lobby. The result is a facade that appears to have been built during the late 1800s when Portland recovered from the great fire of 1865 and a lobby that reflects local influences. Most notably are the genuine brick and granite materials, window fenestration, as well as the low-rise elevation that mimics the scale of most building of that era. 

J.B. Brown President Vin Veroneau, whose company is still owned by heirs of founding entrepreneur John Bundy Brown, said opting for granite and brick over Dryvit stucco is in keeping with the company’s long commitment to Portland and lasting construction.

Another innovation in making the property fit into the historic district was incorporating Foundry Lane, a 19th-century street that was internal to the building lot. It had been discontinued for almost 20 years, but will now help serve the hotel’s valet parking service. 

Veroneau said the Portland Planning Board and staff were sensitive to the timing of the opening, and reviewed the company’s proposal and issued its approval in just 90 days.

In Veroneau’s view, this mixed-use building and other re-development in the vicinity moves activity and visitor traffic further West on Commercial Street from the traditional center of Moulton Street. Future development in the area likely will include another mixed-use building at York and High streets that will include a garage being proposed by J.B. Brown & Sons to handle hotel parking and surrounding office and residential tenants.

In addition, the hotel structure was built with the potential for rising tides in mind. At 14 feet above sea level, mechanical elements will be well out of reach of storm surges or tides periodically high enough to flood low-lying areas of the city.

Others involved in the project include Bangor Savings Bank, which provided financing, Dugas Development, and numerous local subcontractors working with Opechee Construction Corporation, general contractors from Bedford, N.H. The regional general contractor recently has built seven other hospitality properties in Maine, including the Hampton Inn at Franklin Street Arterial and Commercial Street.

With its Marriott Courtyard and the York Street development, J.B. Brown & Sons will continue its legacy of quiet and responsible development in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s hometown, contributing to the city’s reputation as a favored destination for business and pleasure.

Categories: Maine Real Estate Insider