The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on 40 Free Street (Portland)

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2021, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Biddeford to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2022 Spring Conference on May 24th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2021 Top 7 recipients include:

Harold Alfond Hall, Husson University (Bangor)Harnois & Emery Apartments, Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development (Westbrook)
Thornton Heights Commons, South Portland Housing Development Corporation (South Portland)
Riverdam Mill Complex, Port Property (Biddeford)
40 Free Street, JB Brown & Sons & Ryan Senatore Architecture, (Portland)
Deering Place, Zachau Construction & Avesta Housing, (Portland)
Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine, Zachau Construction (Portland)

Please join us this week in celebrating 40 Free Street.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

40 Free Street: Located in Portland’s Old Port, 40 Free Street is a new construction mixed-use building made up of five retail spaces at the street level and 51 market-rate apartment units on its upper floors. Prior to its development, the project site was occupied by a surface parking lot which limited density in Portland’s downtown urban core and fractured the historic streetscape along Free Street. Through development of an energy-efficient building, offering environmental, economic, and social benefits, the 40 Free Street project provides an architecturally holistic solution for its site and for downtown Portland.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project? 

40 Free Street: We felt the break in the pedestrian street wall was problematic, as were cars entering and exiting between buildings. This, coupled with the need for housing, we felt the project would be successful.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

40 Free Street: We started the planning/development process in early 2019, commenced construction in the summer of 2019 and opened in April 2021, so the full process was about 27 months.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

40 Free Street: Site work is always a challenge as is the final punch list for obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy, which was further complicated by the Pandemic.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

40 Free Street: That you can plan for typical bumps with any project, but the Pandemic was a new twist that we needed to manage through.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

40 Free Street: How the building fits seamlessly into the urban fabric of Free Street.

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