The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Children’s Museum + Theatre

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)
Thornton Heights Commons, South Portland Housing Development Corporation (South Portland)
Harnois & Emery Apartments, Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development (Westbrook)
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 Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine.

MEREDA: Describe the building and project.

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  The Children’s Museum + Theatre of Maine has been a longstanding staple of the Southern Maine Community. Offering a location for Children to play, explore and learn. The Children’s Museum launched a $14Million Capital Campaign to build the 30,000 SF new building on Thompson’s Point in Portland. Zachau Construction completed this project, delivering an iconic Portland building that can be seen from I295 and will be a place of exploration for Maine’s young community. The Museum will offer many new exhibits, each one was specifically reworked after the initial plans were created to make sure that people with disabilities can do as much as possible in the museum.

MEREDA: What was the impetus for this project?

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  The new CMTM, increased from a smaller footprint in downtown Portland to 30,000 SF on Thompson’s Point which increased the need for staffing within the organization. Additionally, as the location has moved to location much more accessible to the public, this increases revenue for the organization and creates another attraction in Portland.

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

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  As the construction management partner on the project, we were in the planning stages with the Children’s Museum + Theatre for about a four years.

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

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  As with all builds in 2020 and 2021, we had to overcome the uncertainty of COVID 19 and delays and supply chain issues associated with the pandemic. In addition to the pandemic the site where the building sits had to be stabilized to support the building. We used a method called Surcharge or preloading, which is used by the soil engineers to improve the weak compressible earth, by subjecting the site to an additional fill.

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

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  The building features a unique colorful siding that mimics patterns found in nature. Also a giant one-of-a-kind periscopic camera obscura owned by the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. The camera’s high-end optics, including a special aluminum-coated mirror used in large telescopes and two precision lenses fabricated by Kodak Inc.’s military division, will project the panoramic views visible from the rooftop down onto an exhibit table on the third floor, just as it did previously at the Free Street location. CMTM also has a live active beehive as one of its many state-of-the-art exhibits.

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

Children’s Museum + Theatre:  This noteworthy addition to Portland, Maine features a unique multi-color siding drawing attention to its location on Thompson’s Point. The siding was designed to support the museum’s mission to inspire discovery and imagination through exploration and play. The exterior is composed of painted metal shingles and inspired by patterns in nature, such as ripples on the water, butterfly wings, fish scales, etc. The project also features state-of-the-art exhibits, theatre and adds to the Maine Arts and Culture scene.

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