The company that owns the former Brian Ború pub in Portland’s Old Port has temporarily withdrawn its application for a permit to raze the building and make way for a parking lot for its employees.

The MEMIC Group, a workers compensation insurance company, applied for a demolition permit on June 2, upsetting former patrons of the Irish pub that operated there for 26 years before closing nearly two years ago. An individual contacted MEMIC this week to express interest in moving the brick building from its current location at 57 Center St. and saving it from the wrecking ball.

“If someone has that interest, we figured we’d slow things down a little,” said Tony Payne, spokesman for MEMIC, which is located less than a block from the Ború building at 261 Commercial St.

Payne said MEMIC would hold off pursuing a demolition permit for “a couple weeks” while the company considers the possibility of relocating the building or other ideas with the person who has expressed interest in moving the building. He declined to identify the individual. The company also would welcome inquiries from others who may have the same desire and ability to pay the removal cost.

“Perhaps someone can find another purpose for the structure while observing its sentimental value,” Payne said. “I figured if this story ran, we might attract interest from others who want to move the building.”

Payne said if the building isn’t moved, the company will renew its effort to get a demolition permit. He didn’t know how much it would cost to move the building, but it likely would be a lot more than tearing it down.

“This is not something we approached lightly because of our record around preservation,” Payne said. “We’ve invested a lot of money in preserving and restoring properties in the Old Port.”

A real estate subsidiary of MEMIC purchased the Ború building for $2.26 million in 2019, completing the company’s ownership of the block bounded by Center, Spring, Cotton and Fore streets.

The block includes the historic Tracy Causer Building at 505 Fore St., most recently the home of Pizzarino Italian Restaurant, and Rivalries Sports Pub at 10 Cotton St., both commercial spaces that MEMIC plans to preserve, Payne said.

MEMIC recently repointed the brick and installed historically accurate doors and windows on the Tracy Causer Building, Payne said, and it owns the historic, brick Nathan Winslow Block at 245-251 Commercial St., where Muse Paintbar and Veranda Noodle House are located.

The Ború building does not have any historic protections, though it dates to the 1800s and is located in the Gorham Corner’s neighborhood that was the center of Portland’s Irish immigrant community. It wasn’t included in either the Old Port or West End historic districts, and it’s not a designated landmark, possibly because it’s an outlier and the building has been altered significantly over the years.

MEMIC plans to install a parking lot where the Ború building stands to serve some of the 380 employees who work at its headquarters on Commercial Street, Payne said. He didn’t know how large the parking lot would be or how many spaces it would contain.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of leasing a parking space was approaching $200 a month and MEMIC has been paying for spaces at the Temple Street garage, Fore Street garage, Portland Fish Pier and Top of the Old Port lot, he said.

“MEMIC has more than doubled its workforce over the last decade,” Payne said. “We have been challenged to find parking in close proximity to our office. This additional parking close at hand will provide both short-term relief and convenience for our teammates as folks begin to return to the office whether full time or under a hybrid model.”

Payne said MEMIC offers incentives to employees who use public transportation and it built storage for those who cycle to work, “but many of our teammates travel from well outside Portland to work in town and they require parking.”

He said MEMIC representatives are talking with city officials to explore best future uses for the Ború property beyond parking.

Last week city officials said MEMIC’s application for a demolition permit had been deemed incomplete and they were waiting for additional information before granting permission to tear down the building.

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