The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on the Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12 (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 2022, 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 Lewiston to Portland to Biddeford, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2023 Spring Conference on May 25th.

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 2022 Top 7 recipients include:

Lincoln Hotel & Lofts, LHL Holdings and Chinburg Properties (Biddeford)Gauvreau Place, Community Concepts Inc. and Avesta Housing (Lewiston)
Shipyard Brewing Redevelopment, Bateman Partners, LLC (Portland)
Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12, Portland Foreside Development Company (Portland)
L.L.Bean Corporate Headquarters, Zachau Construction (Freeport)
Freedom Place at 66 State Street, Developers Collaborative (Portland)
VA Outpatient Clinic, J.B. Brown & Sons and FD Stonewater (Portland)

Please join us this week in celebrating the Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: The Portland Company located at 58 Fore Street is rich in history as a former locomotive manufacturing complex which was one of the oldest, continually operating facilities in the country. The Portland Company complex was the only locomotive manufacturing facility in the country that was specifically established to produce locomotives. In addition to manufacturing locomotives, the buildings in this complex produced equipment for Maine’s paper textile and canning industries as well as marine engines, boilers and other parts for shipyards throughout Maine. The Portland Company made a significant contribution to the development of Maine’s railroads and maritime shipping industry. The future industrial expansion, commerce and tourism all were impacted in a positive way from improved transportation that was possible because of products manufactured in these buildings, including Building 12. This complex was originally founded in 1846 by John Poor to meet demands of a new, fast growing railroad industry in the United States. Hand-made wood patterns that were used to cast iron and steel for locomotive parts were a key piece of how the complex operated and a large capital investment for the Portland Company. The patterns were reused over long periods of time and preserving them was critically important, so they were stored in several locations, including the Pattern Storehouse (now known as Building 12). This building was located away from the other buildings and built of brick with a slate roof. Today, the Reconstruction and Reuse of Historic Building 12, which served as the Pattern Storehouse (built c.1895) for the Portland Company, is the catalyst to redeveloping the former Portland Company Site into a mixed-use urban waterfront neighborhood.

The reconstruction and reuse of Historic Building 12 was complex. In 2014, a detailed evaluation of the buildings at the Portland Company was prepared by Becker Structural Engineers. Building 12 was found to be in poor condition, particularly the roof along with significant masonry damage. The roof, upper floor and columns of building were noted to need reconstruction and masonry walls rebuilt. More specifically:
• Slate roof materials were loose and missing in many locations,
• Rotten wood roof trim or completely missing in locations,
• Daylight visible through the roof,
• Roof rafter framing undersized,
• Roof sag,
• Third floor deck and joists rotten,
• Ground floor dip at the center and wood sills bearing on grade as well as columns, all rotten,
• Structural supports hanging from floor beams due to column deterioration,
• Separation in diagonal beam supports at the columns,
• Exterior brick masonry bearing walls showed deterioration including open joints, bowed walls, cracks and rust, and
• Rotting window sills with broken windows.

Though the building condition was found to be poor, Becker also noted it was well constructed in its day.

Due to the condition of the building, Portland Foreside worked with a talented team and the City of Portland to undertake a significant planning, permitting, documentation and preservation efforts spanning a 5-year period that took place before the start of disassembly, relocation and reconstruction of historic Building 12. Upon careful documentation of the building, including 360 laser scans of the facades, the original masonry structure was fully disassembled. The brick was cleaned and stored, and the post and beam timber and salvageable joists and floorboards were saved for reuse. The Building 12 footprint was moved 200 feet from its original location to a new home at 115 Thames Street, making way for construction of the roadway network identified in the City’s Master Plan. The reconstructed building utilizes modern structural steel and composite slabs, modern insulated wall and roof systems, and historic reproduction windows. The building’s masonry preserves the historic character through reuse of the original brick and precise reproduction of the original masonry coursing, character and imperfections. Historic Building 12 now houses a restaurant (TWELVE), office space and residential condominium and the core and shell and restaurant project were completed in 2022. It’s an incredible transformation!

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project? 

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: Building 12 was in jeopardy of becoming buried by the grade of a new roadway being put in adjacent to it. Our team realized that it was necessary to move the building so embarked on a process to determine the best means and methods for this to happen.

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

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: In total, it was a five plus year process to evaluate the condition of the building, develop potential options for relocating it, prepare for its disassembly and store the building components, design the new version of the building, secure permits and then reconstruct the building.

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

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: The most challenging aspect of completing this project was the actual reconstruction of the building after the different components had been in storage for several years.

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

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: Building 12 and its original use as a pattern storehouse was unique because it was originally sited away from the core production buildings of the Portland Company to keep flammable materials away from production areas.

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

Reconstruction & Reuse of Historic Building 12: Its most notable feature is the recognizable Portland Co. sign painted on the exterior western façade – this was part of its original façade.

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