The new owners of Portland’s ailing Time & Temperature Building are vowing to restore the iconic property’s once-vibrant shopping arcade and demolish and rebuild its rusted-out parking garage.

The 14-story Time & Temperature Building at 477 Congress St. was seized by a collections agency in 2016 after years of neglect and an exodus of tenants. 2017 photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

However, developers Chris Rhoades and Andrew Preston of TT Maine Venture LLC still haven’t decided what to do with the mostly vacant office tower, and said they plan to decide among hotel, residential and office uses for the restoration project and submit their plans to the city by February.

Because their vision for the tower is still being formed, Rhoades and Preston don’t know how much the restoration will cost. However, they said it will require the use of historic preservation tax credits and be completed by the end of 2022.

“We’re looking at the potential for a hotel – that’s a possibility, but we don’t have firm plans on that yet,” Rhoades said. He noted that the building’s ornately finished mezzanine level, originally the site of a bank, would make an excellent lobby for a luxury hotel.

The 14-story office tower at 477 Congress St., which opened in 1924 as the 12-story Chapman Building, was seized by a collections agency in 2016 after years of neglect and a mass exodus of tenants. It was then sold at auction to TT Maine Venture in October 2018 for $9.3 million.

Rhoades said the office tower is still about 10 percent occupied by business tenants, and his company is trying to give them ample time to relocate before the restoration work begins. He said commercial leases are no longer being renewed but remaining tenants still can rent on a month-to-month basis. The actual construction work probably wouldn’t start until late 2020, Rhoades said.

Time & Temperature tenant and business owner Bowen Depke said he would love it if Rhoades and Preston decided to renovate the tower and retain its use as an office building. Depke, whose company Executive Office Centers is leasing the building’s fifth and sixth floors, said he has been a Time & Temperature office tenant for 16 years, through good times and bad.

He said Rhoades and Preston already have made a great impression by installing a new elevator, hiring a full-time facilities director and keeping tenants well-informed about future plans for the property. That’s in stark contrast with the previous owner, CWCapital Asset Management of Bethesda, Maryland, which largely neglected the property and was impossible to reach in an emergency, Depke said.

The large corner room that once was a bank, seen from the mezzanine in the Time & Temperature Building. Co-owner Chris Rhoades said the ornately finished mezzanine level would make an excellent lobby for a luxury hotel. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Notwithstanding that I might be going to the guillotine, (Rhoades and Preston) have been very nice with that ax,” he joked. “Honestly, we’d love to stay here.”

Rhoades and Preston have a background in real estate development and financial backing from the Presidium Group, a Dallas-based real estate investment firm that owns about 13,000 apartment units in multiple states. The same partnership is behind Brunswick Landing Venture LLC, which has purchased 120 acres of former base housing and buildable land inside Brunswick Landing, a decommissioned naval air station in Brunswick that was converted to private ownership in 2011.

Rhoades credited Presidium Group for having the track record and financial wherewithal to make a project like the Time & Temperature restoration possible.

PORTLAND LANDMARK

The Time & Temperature Building can be recognized from miles around by the 30-foot-wide, 9-foot-high digital clock on its roof, a Portland landmark since it was installed in 1964. In its early days, the building was distinguished by a large, two-story rectangle carved out inside an extension of the building that was lined on the ground floor with upscale shops. Above, a glassed-in mezzanine and balconies looked down on a sloping floor, which was illuminated by a massive skylight.

Rhoades and Preston said their plan is to restore those elements of the property and bring it back to life.

A Portland Co. coal-fired boiler from 1923 remains in the basement of the Time & Temperature Building. The building was built in 1922, and two floors were added in the 1960s. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“This is a historic building,” Rhoades said. “It’s on Monument Square. It’s the most recognized building in the state. We wanted to explore the highest and best use and … invest to bring it back to its glory days.”

In addition to restoring the shopping arcade and its skylight, Rhoades and Preston said they plan to demolish the adjacent, 340-space parking garage and build a new one with roughly the same capacity, while adding a residential tower on top of it. The developers said they plan to build apartments, with at least 10 percent of them meeting Portland’s standard for affordable housing.

All developers of large apartment buildings in Portland are now supposed to make at least 10 percent of their units affordable based on the city’s median wage, but most have opted for a second option of paying money into the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Rhoades and Preston said they plan to build the affordable units instead of paying the money.

The Time & Temperature Building’s prior owner, CWCapital, is what’s known as a “special servicer,” which is like a collections agency for holders of commercial mortgages that were later bundled with similar mortgages and sold off in tranches to private investors. In the years leading up to the Great Recession of 2008, commercial mortgage-backed securities were a wildly popular investment.

Prior to the 2016 bank foreclosure, Time & Temperature’s previous owner, a subsidiary of New York City-based Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates LLC, had been negotiating with CWCapital to reduce the principal on the building’s $12 million mortgage.

Those negotiations broke down in April 2016, and CWCapital initiated foreclosure proceedings. CWCapital set up a limited liability company called 477-481 Congress Street Holdings LLC and granted it the right to collect leases and rents. During the two-year period CWCapital owned the property, tenants said the building continued to deteriorate with little attention from the owner.

Chris Rhoades, right, and Drew Preston stand in the corner office on the 14th floor of the Time & Temperature Building on Friday. Rhoades said the tower is still about 10 percent occupied by business tenants, and his company is trying to give them ample time to move before the restoration begins.  Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Rhoades and Preston said the building’s primary infrastructure such as its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are all original and have aged well beyond their useful life. Time & Temperature will need to be stripped down to its bones and all systems replaced as part of the restoration, they said.

“Everything has to be gutted,” Preston said. “No matter what gets put in here – whether it’s office space, hotel space, apartments – whatever gets done, it literally has to be taken right down to the exterior walls and completely rebuilt from the ground up.”

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