The former American Can Company building on the waterfront of downtown Eastport is about to start on a 21st century journey of restoration and reuse. The 36,000-square-foot brick structure, which was built in 1908 to support the sardine industry, has had many incarnations, from can manufacturing to salmon farming. The building's renaissance as a boutique hotel with residential and retail space is now in place with a new ownership structure. The building's 11‑year owner, Dirigamus LLC, is partnering with the Arnold Development Group (ADG), the developer of the 60,000-square-foot Mayo Mill in Dover‑Foxcroft and significantly larger projects in Kansas City, Mo. With the new partnership, one of the downtown's last remaining buildings in need of a future is on its way.
"We're excited about this project," says ADG CEO Jonathan Arnold. "We see that it's one of the last buildings on Main Street that needs to be restored."
The project is a significant piece to the mix of downtown revitalization that began in the 1980s with the listing of most of the downtown to the National Register of Historic Places, the creation of a local historic district and participation in the state's Main Street Maine program of economic recovery through historic preservation revitalization strategies. The Sea Street building joined the National Register and local district in 2016. "It's an honor to be part of the work that's taking place in the downtown," Arnold adds.
ADG is a full‑service real estate investment firm that has made its mark with new construction using green design principles and the revitalization of historic buildings into multi‑use spaces. The company focuses on buildings in walkable neighborhoods fueled by the baby boomers reaching retirement and the millennial generation. "Our attraction to Eastport is similar to what drew us to the downtown Kansas City and Dover‑Foxcroft projects. The sense of place, the history, the walkability, the main street and urban vibrancy," says Arnold. "We're building off of the success of Dover‑Foxcroft. It's similar. We took a historic industrial building and worked with community partners to determine the needs and new use."
While the company's discussions with the Dirigamus partners and other community members led to the recognition that additional hospitality space is needed in Eastport, Arnold explains that diversifying the space's uses beyond hotel rooms and into residential units allows for a "baseline" income flow during the slower months.
Project aims for June 2018 completion
Should all go as planned with the timeline for restoration and construction of the $18 million project, in June 2018 the building will be open with 26 hotel rooms on the first and third floors, 16 residential units for lease on the second floor, a number of retail spaces, an events center with seating for up to 104, a wine bar, catering kitchen, fitness and spa area, a media and gathering room and a concourse space for exhibits.
Nancy Asante, a partner in Dirigamus, says, "As Eastport has developed its image and reputation over the last dozen years, the need for more public services, quality lodging, dining, shopping, cultural and recreational experiences has grown. Fifteen Sea Street is designed to contribute to the local economy by expanding what our community has to offer."
Construction is expected to begin by late summer of 2017. Arnold explains that, as with the company's other projects, ADG will contract out the construction to a general contractor that will hire subcontractors. "There's a significant amount of selective demolition of the building that is part of the restoration," he notes. Portions of the heavy timbers in the support structure have significant rot, and the brickwork will need tuck pointing. The pier system supporting the building will need some work, "but for the most part it's very structurally sound. I don't see the pier as a major stumbling block," Arnold says.
A long journey
Until it partnered with ADG, Dirigamus LLC was the sole owner of the large building since 2005. Partners Linda Godfrey, Meg McGarvey and Nancy Asante are also owners of The Commons, a downtown building that features two vacation rental apartments, a gallery of local artisans, retail space for the Eat Local Eastport Cooperative and more. Eleven years ago the three women saw the potential in the Sea Street building as a much‑needed addition to the community for offering a multi‑use space.
It was an 11‑year journey of exploration with others to find the right mix for its use and partnership structure. Godfrey says, "A committed group of community partners invested in the project to launch the early environmental, engineering, architectural and business planning work." McGarvey adds, "We have had total cooperation from local governmental groups that have approval roles in this type of project C city leaders, planning board, historic review committee, zoning board of appeals. Professionals from the Washington County Council of Governments and Sunrise County Economic Council are great collaborators. State organizations from GrowSmart Maine, to business advisers at Maine Small Business Development Center at Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), the Women's Business Center with CEI and several state historic preservation organizations have added expertise and encouragement." Godfrey comments that it was a path that "took dedication to this vision, total persistence, lots of sleepless nights and being part of the larger Eastport group of businesses and organizations that has kept us committed."
A people, planet and profit approach
"Eastport is the perfect location for this signature historic renovation," Arnold says. "We were proud to win the 2016 Project of the Year Award from the Maine Real Estate Association for our work on the Mayo Mill restoration. We are committed to achieving another distinctive renovation in Eastport."
Christian Arnold, chief investment officer with ADG states, "Our development company has a strategy for investing in building new properties and renovating historic structures that is attracting attention in the real estate development industry nationally. Bringing this strategy to achieve the 15 Sea Street project outcomes will add both the Eastport and Dover‑Foxcroft projects to our portfolio of national models."
As a benefit corporation, ADG approaches real estate development with the goal of creating triple bottom line returns of people, planet and profit. "We believe in generating market rate risk adjusted returns that are compatible with lasting social and environmental impacts," Christian Arnold explains. "We view sustainable, people‑centered development as a strategy for creating lasting real assets that generate long-term stable investments which spark positive, catalytic impacts within the communities in which we develop partnerships."
Historic tax credits are used as a part of the investment strategy. The financing partnerships are being developed, says Jonathan Arnold, with the expectation that they will be finalized by the end of 2017.
In addition, Arnold notes that the multi‑use space aligns with Eastport's telecommuter recruitment program and the "Aging in Place" collaboration between Eastport and AARP of Maine. "We are pleased to join with Dirigamus LLC in this next monumental restoration of a proud Eastport landmark and add to the economic advancement of the community."
Asante says that ADG's work in Dover‑Foxcroft is an inspiring model for the 15 Sea Street project. "We Dirigamus partners believe 15 Sea Street will likewise expand Eastport's capacity to entice more visitors, attract young professional families and satisfy active seniors who want to live and work within our vibrant community."
At a later date a public gathering will be announced inviting all former workers at the American Can Company building over the years to bring photos, stories and memorabilia to view and to share memories. "We believe those who have worked over the years in this great building will celebrate with us that it has been saved and has a new and valuable purpose," says McGarvey.
For more information visit <http://www.arnolddevelopmentgroup.com> and <www.15seastreet.com>.