Construction is underway at the St. Joseph's Motherhouse!

In December the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found the City Council had acted within their authority to rezone the parcel behind the Motherhouse to allow for higher density. In March the 1909 Convent and 1862 Academy buildings that comprise the Motherhouse were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That same month the project received additional city funding support through the reallocation of federal funds from another project currently on hold. 

Quietly work has begun on demolition of the buildings' interiors. Crews have been carefully removing and labeling interior woodwork that will be reinstalled after new insulation and mechanical and electrical systems are installed. On June 22 a ground breaking ceremony was held to kick-off the project's rehabilitation. Representatives from the Maine Girls' Academy (formerly Catherine McAuley High School) and the City of Portland helped Developers Collaborative and Sea Coast Management celebrate the official start of the rehabilitation of this significant local landmark.

Landmarks was delighted to help celebrate this first step in the building's new purpose. We congratulate all involved in helping to save these two historic buildings and provide affordable senior housing in Portland. 

Places in Peril

Since 2012 Greater Portland Landmarks has highlighted buildings and sites throughout Greater Portland that are threatened by demolition, redevelopment, or neglect. 

This year's nominations for our Places in Peril program are due Friday, June 23rd. More information is available on how to nominate a property here

Prior Places in Peril nominees have included House Island, the Grand Trunk Railroad Office Building, Sacred Heart Church, Fort Gorges, and Lincoln Park in Portland as well as South Portland's Maine State Armory Building. The Armory Building and the Grand Trunk Railroad Office Building were successfully rehabilitated this year.

The Armory now houses a convenience store, gas station and karate studio while the railroad building is now home to offices for Gorham Savings Bank. House Island was protected as a historic district by the City of Portland in 2015. Sacred Heart Church, an important cultural and religious center in the Parkside neighborhood, was able to surpass its fundraising goals to restore the church's copper roof and bell tower in 2016 after being named a Place in Peril in 2015. 

Work is ongoing at two current Places in Peril. Construction is underway in Lincoln Park to replace the crumbling sidewalks and restore the park's central fountain. Next year the city has budgeted for the perimeter fence to be restored. Out in the harbor, Fort Gorges will also be a construction site this summer as the Army Corps of Engineers undertakes some safety improvements. The city's consultant is currently preparing a historic preservation plan for the fort's structural stabilization and island improvements that should be released later this summer. 

Greater Portland Landmarks' Places in Peril program has successfully served as a catalyst for adaptive reuse and community revitalization. We continue to work to bring attention to other vulnerable sites on our list.  If you know of a endangered property or site that should be featured by Landmarks, let us know!


City presents plans for "Portland Landing"

In late May the City unveiled plans for a new waterfront park. The City has been working with Stantec Engineering to create a plan to redevelop the Amethyst Parking Lot between Ocean Gateway and the Portland Company on Thames Street. The open space would enhance public access to the waterfront and create a park space in the India Street neighborhood, a neighborhood seeing rapid growth and redevelopment. 

The slideshow from the May public forum is now available online. For updates on the proposed park, visit the city's website.

Comment now on proposed art for Congress Square Park

Sarah Sze.jpg

Shattered Sphere, Sze Studio


Artist Sarah Sze has proposed three options for a proposed sculpture in Congress Square Park. The three options are now available online. Each option consists of three pieces of diminishing size that would be installed within the park. The Portland Public Art Committee will meet on Wednesday, May 17 at 4:30PM to discuss the three options with the artist and to accept public comment. If you can't attend the meeting, public comment will be accepted online for one week following the meeting. For more information contact Caitlin Cameron.

Public Forum: Fort Gorges Preservation Plan

On May 10th at 5:30PM in the Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Room, the City of Portland will hold a public forum on Fort Gorges. The City will explain what will be happening on the island this summer as the Army Corps of Engineers begins work on some safety improvements at the fort and will talk about the preservation planning process. The City is funding a preservation plan with help from Friends of Fort Gorges, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Portland Planning Board Public Hearing on new City Comprehensive Plan

The Draft Land Use Plan identifies target areas in the city for change or evaluation in the next decade. Map Courtesy of the City of Portland Planning Department

The City of Portland will hold another public hearing on Thursday, April 13th at 6PM to take public comment on the draft comprehensive plan. It is expected that the plan, with some possible minor modifications, will be forwarded to the City Council and presented in a council workshop on Monday, April 24th at 5PM.

Greater Portland Landmarks' staff and supporters have participated in public forums, workshops, and hearings  as well as several meetings with city staff during the comprehensive plan's development. Our goal has been to insure that the plan reflects the incalculable contribution Portland's authentic sense of place makes to our city's economic, social, and cultural vitality. 

Learn more about Greater Portland Landmarks comments on the draft Comprehensive Plan here. 

Portland unveils new design for Congress Square Park

On March 16th the City held a public meeting to update the community on the progress of the new Congress Square design. Details on the plan, activities, and materials are available on the city's website. Comments on the plan will be accepted through March 24th. 

St. Joseph's Convent receives additional City funding support

Stevens Avenue, Portland photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

Stevens Avenue, Portland photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

The city's housing committee agreed this month to reallocate federal dollars from a Portland Housing Authority (PHA) housing project to a project that will rehabilitate a former convent on Stevens Avenue. PHA's project on Boyd Street is on hold and the Stevens Avenue project has a funding gap that needs to be closed as rehabilitation work is hoped to begin this spring. 

The plans for the vacant convent building will convert it into housing for people 55 years and up. The project is in part financed with historic and low income tax credits. The value of those credits has diminished, creating a small funding gap in the $17 million dollar project. 

The convent will be one of many historic properties to be restored using the federal historic tax credit program, a program that is currently in danger of being lost even though it creates more money than costs. Please help us build support for retaining this important preservation tool and learn more about our advocacy for retaining and improving the federal historic tax credit.

Revised Design for the Rufus Deering Site

Rendering by Archetype Architects

Rendering by Archetype Architects

The design team working on the redevelopment of the Rufus Deering parcel has submitted revised images of their proposed plan for a mixed use development at 383 Commercial Street. The new design responds to many of the comments made by members of the Portland Historic Preservation Board at a workshop in January. The role of the Historic Preservation Board is advisory only to the Planning Board because the project is just outside the boundaries of the Portland Waterfront Historic District. The Historic Preservation Board will hold a second workshop on the project on March 1 at 5:00 PM in Room 209 of City Hall, 389 Congress Street.

Image from the January 2017 Historic Preservation Board Workshop 

Image from the January 2017 Historic Preservation Board Workshop 

Sen. Susan Collins sponsors Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2017

The Press Hotel, Irvin Serrano Photography

The Press Hotel, Irvin Serrano Photography

Sen. Susan Collins and five other senators  have introduced the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S.425). The bill would increase the historic tax credit (HTC) for certain small projects, allow credit transfers for certain small projects, lower the expenditure threshold to qualify for the HTC from 100 percent to 50 percent of the adjusted basis, reduce the depreciable basis adjustment for HTC property, and modify certain tax-exempt property rules. Several members of the House of Representatives introduced a companion bill in their chamber.

For more than three decades, the federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) has successfully implemented a national policy of preserving our historic resources. It is the most significant investment the federal government makes toward the preservation of our historic buildings. Despite a proven track record of stimulating economic growth and preserving our architectural heritage, however, the historic tax credit faces an uncertain future. As pressure builds to reform the nation’s tax code, several influential tax reform proposals recommend a repeal of this essential credit. We appreciate Sen. Collins' sponsorship of this bill and her support for the redevelopment of Maine's historic resources.

Please join us in thanking Sen. Collins by email or with a thank you note or postcard via mail at One Canal Plaza, Suite 802, Portland, ME 04101. 

Thank you Senator Collins for sponsoring the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act  (S.425) and for your continued support of  a program that has proven to be a cost-effective driver of economic development and job creation while conserving our nation's historic places. 

More information on the Federal Historic Tax Credit is available here.

Greater Portland Landmarks letter to Senator Collins is available here.

Help Shape the Future of Portland

The draft of Portland's Comprehensive Plan is now available and the City is accepting comments for the next 30 days. While Landmarks has largely focused its comments to date on the historic preservation chapter, we encourage you to read the entire draft and provide comment to the city staff at  

The latest draft plan is based on work that began in 2015 and included a process of extensive public engagement, including attendance at farmers' markets, fairs, middle and high school classes, neighborhood group meetings, and many other events to learn what people in Portland hope for the next 10 years. In all, city staff have attended well over 40 events this year, hearing from hundreds of people, as well as countless others who stopped by at large events.  Landmarks' Advocacy Committee met with city staff last month and members and staff have participated in public workshops and other events throughout the process.

Portland is Equitable, Sustainable, Dynamic, Secure, Authentic, and Connected

Landmarks' believes that Portland's historic character is a critical element in our city's authentic sense of place and therefore is important to conserve and enhance as we chart Portland's future. The conservation of our built environment is also critical to helping move our city forward as a more sustainable place to live and work.  Our historic buildings support businesses large and small and provide a diversity of housing options for Portland's residents. Through support of the City's Historic Preservation program, cultural organizations that promote the City's history, and the many businesses that contribute to Portland's heritage tourism industry, Portland in 2030 can be equitable, sustainable, dynamic, secure, authentic, and connected.

New height overlay zoning proposed to protect the vista from Fort Sumner Park

Postcard view of Fort Sumner Park around the turn of the 20th century.

Postcard view of Fort Sumner Park around the turn of the 20th century.

Portland's Planning Board will consider whether or not to protect existing public views to Back Cove and Mount Washington from Fort Sumner Park this Tuesday night. The purpose of the overlay is "to protect the public interest by limiting the impact of development on the quintessential views of natural resources." According to a report compiled by city staff, the vista from Fort Sumner Park has been identified for its value as a panorama for over 100 years. In the City's Downtown Height Study completed in 1989, it was singled out for its views of the city skyline and water and as a vista to receive "special attention".  The proposed overlay would limit the height of buildings in the R-6 zone below the park to the level of the park's viewing platform and would impact only six parcels. 

Greater Portland Landmarks supports the proposed amendment because it will protect the essential reason for the park and fort's location on this site while research can be undertaken to document the site's historic and cultural significance. The Friends of Fort Sumner Park have requested local landmark designation and are working to research the site, raise awareness of its significance, and advocate for its preservation. While the park has had a long history as a military and a recreational site, little remains above ground to tell the story of the original Fort Sumner and the late 19th century design of the park. Additional study of the park through archaeological investigations would expand local knowledge of the fort, its passageway and waterfront battery, and its 19th century park design.  

Upon further research, local designation of the park as a historic site may be appropriate. The vista out over the western side of Portland would be a major character-defining feature for both its period of significance as a fort and as a park.  If the vista were to be lost, it would severely impact the future possibility of the park's designation as a historic landscape.

New Institutional Zoning would facilitate Maine Medical Center Transformation

Proposed new MMC entrance on Congress Street

Proposed new MMC entrance on Congress Street

Maine Medical Center is planning an expansion to transform the hospital along Congress Street and build new private patient rooms. Currently some empty beds in semi-private rooms cannot be utilized due to gender or disease, which inhibits the hospital's ability to provide care to all patients in a timely manner. The plans will likely be reviewed under a new Institutional Overlay Zone that is under development by the City of Portland Planning Staff. Information on Maine Medical Center's draft Institutional Development Plan and the city's draft framework for the new zoning is available at the links below.

City of Portland Draft Institutional Overlay Zone

MMC's Draft Institutional Development Plan

MMC's website dedicated to its transformation plan

Portland's Historic Preservation Program

With development booming in Portland, the Historic Preservation Program was very busy in 2016. City staff members have compiled a look back at some recently approved and completed projects in the city's historic districts. The projects range from the very small installation of screening for a new heat pump to large developments like the new residential building on the site of the old Joe's Smoke Shop. 

2016 Historic Preservation Program Annual Review

Greater Portland Landmarks attends every meeting of the Portland Historic Preservation Board and comments on many of the applications reviewed by the full board. 2017 is already off to a busy start with proposed new buildings on the lot occupied by the Grand Trunk Railroad building at the corner of Thames and India Streets and the former Rufus Deering parcel on Commercial Street.

The Giant Walking Serviceman sign on Route 302 is found to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places

The recently restored Hawkes Plaza sign is more commonly known as the Walking Man Sign, although his legs don't actually move, just his arms.

The recently restored Hawkes Plaza sign is more commonly known as the Walking Man Sign, although his legs don't actually move, just his arms.

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission has determined that the recently restored Hawkes Plaza Sign on Route 302 at Duck Pond Corner in Westbrook is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance within the areas of art and commerce. 

The sign was built by Al Hawkes after he returned home from the Korean War to advertise his TV and radio business. The sign became a local landmark for travelers along busy Route 302 and is commonly referred to as the Giant Walking Serviceman or Walking Man sign. The sign has three hundred and eighty-five lightbulbs and a mechanical motor that drives the serviceman’s arm back and forth as it carries a box of TV parts.  Completed in 1962, the sign was turned off in 1989.  It was recently restored to working order by restaurateur Bill Umbel, owner of the new Lenny's Pub in the building occupied by Al Hawke's former TV and radio business.

Greater Portland Landmarks worked with the Westbrook Historical Society and neighbors to gain recognition for the sign now threatened by a Maine Department of Transportation proposal for a roundabout at Duck Pond Corner. The determination by the state of the sign's significance is an important step to preserving the sign for drivers to enjoy as they pass by for years to come. So next time you head west on Route 302, stop into Lenny's, take a picture with the Walking Man, and thank Bill for restoring this important piece of Westbrook's history! For more information on the history of Duck Pond and Al Hawkes:

This Place Matters: Duck Pond Corner 

Iconic Hawkes Plaza Repairman Lives Again in Westbrook Bangor Daily News

Westbrook Historical Society's History of Duck Pond

Portland Company Public Hearing

CPB2 image of the Portland Company redevelopment

CPB2 image of the Portland Company redevelopment

  • On Tuesday, December 20th, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing, and subsequent vote, on the Master Development Plan put forth by CPB2 to redevelop the former Portland Company complex on the Eastern Waterfront.

If you want to ensure that buildings in the Portland Company Local Historic District are carefully integrated into redevelopment plans, we need your help! The Planning Board will be voting on the master development plan application on Tuesday, December 20th @ 7PM at City Hall.

What you can do:

  1. E-mail the Planning Board, to let them know that you support Greater Portland Landmarks’ position
  2. Contact Landmarks' Director of Advocacy at
  3. Attend the Planning Board Meeting, Dec 20th at 7PM in City Hall Council Chambers, to voice your support for historic preservation
  4. Share this with anyone who knows these buildings matter!

The Portland Company Historic District recognizes a nationally-significant industrial complex that conveys an important part of Portland’s history.  Therefore, the scale and impact of the redevelopment must be carefully composed to preserve the character of the industrial complex.

Greater Portland Landmarks advocates for the following:

  • Upholding the findings of the Historic Preservation Board
  • Creating new construction in and directly adjacent to the historic district that does not overwhelm, distract or visually compete with the historic buildings.
  • Preserving the character of the industrial complex through scale, massing, materials, and design details while allowing for new construction.
  • Including at least one overhead bridge element that is retained or rebuilt in each alley to preserve the industrial complex’s visual character.
  • Designing additions to the historic buildings that are contextually appropriate to each building.

Landmarks supports the potential relocation of Building 12 and the related amendment of the district boundaries as contemplated in the Master Development Plan.  The relocation will preserve the building’s visual relationship with the other contributing buildings in the historic district, provide it much greater visibility than would be possible in its current location, and create a contiguous historic district boundary. 

Read more about Landmarks' specific comments submitted to the Planning Board 12/15/2016

Read more about the issue and our position.

Join the City of Portland and Friends of Congress Square!

The next public meeting for the Congress Square redesign is this week.  The design team WRT and artist Sarah Sze will present the latest design concepts for the square and public art. The presentation is open to the public and public comment will be taken. The city and the design team want to hear your comments!

Thursday, December 15, 5:30-7:30pm @ Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, Winslow Homer Junior Ballroom  

The City of Portland will also collect feedback online during December and January for those who cannot attend - look for updates on the project webpage:

Planning staff will also be presenting the latest concepts at public workshops for various boards and committees in January.

Final Public Hearings on the Portland Company Master Development Plan Begin This Week

Image of the Portland Company Historic District by Perkins + Will Global from CPB2

Image of the Portland Company Historic District by Perkins + Will Global from CPB2

The next scheduled public meeting will be the Historic Preservation Board's public hearing on Wednesday, December 7th. The public hearing is scheduled for 7PM in Room 209. Staff Memo for the HP Meeting on 12/07/2016

The final scheduled public hearing will be the Planning Board's meeting December 20, 2016, 7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall. 

If you are interested the last Planning Board workshop on the project's Architecture and Public Amenities it is available online. There is a brief discussion on the process and what a master development plan is and is not, a presentation by the applicant, public comment,  and a discussion by board members.


Portland Company Master Development Plan Workshops Continue

Portland's Planning Board and Historic Preservation Board have been holding workshops this month on CPB2's application for a master development plan at 58 Fore Street, the former Portland Company site. A final workshop on the project's public amenities and architecture will be held tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 in City Council Chambers.

The Historic Preservation Board will hold its public hearing on the proposed plan on December 7th and the Planning Board will hold its public hearing on the plan on December 20th.  More information on times and locations tbd.

At the request of board members, CPB2 has provided additional images of the proposed development. 

Mark your calendars!


The next public meeting for the Congress Square redesign is a month away.  The design team WRT and artist Sarah Sze will present the latest design concepts for the square and public art. The presentation is open to the public and public comment will be taken. The city and the design team want to hear your feedback!

Thursday, December 15, 5:30-7:30pm @ Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, Longfellow Room

The City of Portland will also collect feedback online during December and January for those who cannot attend - look for updates on the project webpage:

Planning staff will also be presenting the latest concepts at public workshops for various boards and committees in January.