Maine’s largest brewery wants to build Portland’s first “brewtel” – a hotel with a brewing motif, a first-floor tasting room and potentially craft beer room service.
That concept is part of an ambitious $65 million redevelopment plan submitted to the city by Shipyard Brewing Co. and Bateman Partners and made public Tuesday.
The proposal reflects the city’s reputation as a destination for craft beer fans and comes as Shipyard’s India Street neighborhood is being transformed by a construction boom of hotels, offices and condos lining the once-quiet East End streets between the downtown and Munjoy Hill.
“It just feels like an opportune time to take advantage of the demand for space downtown,” said Shipyard founder and President Fred Forsley.
According to planning documents given to the city last month, the existing brick brewery building and tasting room would be renovated. But the rest of the buildings on the 2-acre site – including the bottling plant – would be demolished to make way for the 105-room hotel, a three-story residential building with nine units at Hancock and Newbury streets, a large office building and a four-story garage for 360 vehicles.
In addition to the 60,000 square feet of office space, the development plan calls for both a 60,000-square-foot specialty pharmacy and a 40,000-square-foot distribution center known as a technical fulfillment pharmacy.
BREWTEL’S AN EVOLVING CONCEPT
But it’s the so-called brewtel that sets the proposal apart. Forsley said the concept would immerse patrons in the brewing experience by offering tours of the brewery, a tasting room on the ground floor and a television station dedicated to brewing. Hotel guests also may be able to ring up room service, which could wheel up a keg for pouring fresh pints. And hotel staff would be educated about the brewing process.
“It’s a new concept,” Forsley said. “We’re evolving the concept as we speak.”
Brewtels, however, exist elsewhere. Dogfish Head opened the Dogfish Head Inn in 2014 in Lewes, Delaware, which has 16 rooms and includes a 32 oz. growler for guests to keep and refill. The inn was named one of the best brew hotels in the country this spring by TravelPirates.com.
Early next year, BrewDog is expected to open a beer hotel called DogHouse, in Elon, Scotland. That facility is expected to include in-room beer taps and a built-in shower beer fridge, according to Conde Nast Traveller.
Shipyard plans to scale back its bulk beer production at its downtown brewery and focus on experimental pilot beers, as well as barrel-aged beers. Forsley said the company’s warehouse on Read Street, a few miles from downtown, will be used to brew Shipyard beers and other products such as Cap’t Eli’s Soda, Ice Pick Vodka and other spirits.
Shipyard, which employs over 900 people, will continue to make beers at its breweries in Bangor, Kennebunk, Clearwater, Florida, and Burlington, Vermont.
Forsley said he could not comment on other potential tenants.
However, Vets First Choice recently announced that it was looking to build a $20 million corporate facility in downtown Portland that would have a specialty pharmacy and fulfillment center, among other things. A company representative could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
NEIGHBORHOOD’S RAPID GROWTH
Shipyard first came to the India Street neighborhood in the mid-90s. A tax break worth over $700,000 from the city helped it convert an old foundry into the brewery that exists today.
But over the years the neighborhood, which has burned down three times, struggled to reconnect to the downtown area after being cut off by the construction of Franklin Street. It had few year-round residents, some of whom thought the neighborhood had been forgotten and neglected.
That’s all changed.
Today, an array of cranes and other heavy machinery occupies about a half-dozen construction sites, most of which are within sight of each other. Welders throw sparks, pneumatic tools pulsate and the clang of metal reverberates throughout a few blocks’ radius.
eff Levine, the city’s planning and urban development director, said India Street is seeing some of the most intense development in the city – at least on a square-mile basis. He said the city’s efforts to create a neighborhood plan, historic district and form-based code several years ago have helped developers with their building designs and proposals.
The neighborhood is attractive because it’s close to downtown, and up until recently, was not densely developed.
“It doesn’t hurt that it’s near the water and Munjoy Hill,” Levine said. “It’s a really unique location.”
According to data provided by the city, nine developments have been completed since 2015, adding 96 units of housing and nearly 200,000 square feet of developed space. Six additional commercial and residential projects, totaling 58 housing units and nearly 350,000 square feet, are currently under construction. And a couple of others are under review.
‘DOESN’T LOOK LIKE PORTLAND’
The rapid change is being noticed and felt by local residents.
“It doesn’t look like Portland anymore,” said East End resident Diane Russell, who was strolling along India Street shortly before noon Tuesday.
Mountfort Street resident Alicia Laudermilk said she grew up in the neighborhood and returned three years ago after spending some time living in Windham.
“I remember when the Village Cafe was there and there weren’t a lot of buildings,” said Laudermilk, 34, who was walking with her 4-year-old son, Isaac, near the corner of Newbury and Hancock streets.
Now there are two large condominium buildings on each side of Newbury Street. A recently completed 39-unit condo project stands at 113 Newbury St. Across from that is an 86-unit condo called the Bay House. First-floor retail at those buildings include nail and hair salons.
Laudermilk thinks the development is good, although there aren’t a lot of year-round residents on the streets in spite of all the new housing. Many of the new residents come only in the summer, she said.
“I wish there was more affordable housing, instead of all of these condos, but you can’t really do much about that,” she said.
The Bay House is directly across from Shipyard Brewing. Just one street down stands a new four-story office building that houses Tilson Technology Management and the Benkay Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar. That block also includes the Ocean Gateway parking garage and a four-story condo and office building recently built at India and Fore streets.
Closer to the waterfront, three new buildings are under construction on Thames Street: the new headquarters for the credit card processing company Wex Inc., a nearly completed hotel, and Twenty Thames luxury condominiums, where unit prices are starting at over $500,000.
In the eye of the development storm is Micucci’s Grocery, a neighborhood fixture that is just across India Street from the nearly finished Mason Block luxury condo complex, where studios start at $299,000, and the steel frame at Middle and India that will soon be the new cPort Credit Union.
Owner Rick Micucci said his family bought the building at 45 India St. for an Italian grocery in 1965. As a kid, he remembers the industrial feel and the vacant, weed-strewn lots that once dominated the neighborhood.
Although the ongoing development is a contentious topic in Portland these days, Micucci said the new condos and offices – and the construction – has been good for his business, the neighborhood and the city overall.
“Managed growth is good for the city,” the 57-year-old said. “(The neighborhood) had a lot of potential for a long time. The surprising thing is that nothing happened for a long time.”
Shipyard Brewing Co., a fixture in the India Street neighborhood in Portland since the mid-1990s, is joining Bateman Partners in proposing a $65 million redevelopment of Shipyard’s property. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)