The Portland Planning Board approved Redfern Properties' plan to build an 18-story apartment tower, the building at right in this rendering, at what will be 201 Federal St., in Portland's Old Port. (Courtesy Redfern Properties)
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Plans for what would be the tallest building in Portland, and potentially the state, will hit another milestone next week at the Planning Board.

The proposal for an 18-story apartment building at Temple and Federal streets in the Old Port is from Redfern Properties, a Portland-based development group. It will have a public hearing Jan. 26 on a zoning waiver sought to allow the project’s extra height.

The Planning Board is also slated to have a hearing on amending a conditional zoning agreement for the former Williston-West Church in the city’s West End.

The proposed 18-story apartment building at 200 Federal St. would occupy most of the block between Federal, Congress, Temple and Exchange streets. (Courtesy Redfern Properties)

Under existing limits, Redfern co-owner Jonathan Culley said last week, his company’s 200 Federal St. project would be allowed to be 150 feet tall, plus a 40-foot architectural cap to cover rooftop mechanical systems. The proposed zoning amendment would allow Redfern to build a structure 190 feet tall, not including the rooftop equipment.  

Culley said the project would create 265 rental apartments, with a focus on workforce housing.

“There’s a lot going on down there, a lot of downtown job growth, more than we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “We’re trying to match housing with where the jobs are.”

The zoning amendment must be reviewed by the Planning Board, which would send a recommendation to the City Council. The project would then have to go through the site plan review process.

If every checkmark is hit along the way, Culley said the hope is to have approvals by May or June and to break ground late this year.

He said the building would have a significant number of amenities, including a  fitness room, coworking space, and a common-area “sky lounge” on the top floor.

“The views up there are incredible,” Culley said.

While Culley said it’s very likely this would become the tallest building in the city, and likely the state, that isn’t what Redfern is setting out to accomplish.

“We’re not ego-driven,” he said. “We’re trying to build housing and this makes it viable. It’s not an accolade we’re seeking, we’re simply seeking to build the type of housing our community needs.”

Some of the units will be at “workforce” rates he said, although he didn’t want to classify them as affordable. The rest will be the “middle and upper end” of market rate, Culley said.

He estimated rents would be between $1,300 and $2,200 a month depending on the size of the unit, with most being studios and one-bedroom apartments.

“We’re targeting millennials,” he said. “Folks who want to live in the city and are willing to sacrifice space or square footage to have a convenient and fulfilling lifestyle.”

Williston-West

The former Williston-West Church and parish house on Thomas Street have struggled at times to maintain occupancy and have been sold at auction more than once.

The owners of the former Williston-West Church on Thomas Street in Portland’s West End are slated to appear before the Planning Board Jan. 26 for a public hearing on amending a conditional zoning agreement with the city. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)

The building was a church until 2011, when Williston-West merged with the Immanuel Baptist-American Baptist Churches, forming the Williston-Immanuel United Church on High Street. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Following its closure in 2011, it was sold to a developer whose plan to convert the former sanctuary into commercial space was thwarted by a lawsuit. The residences planned for the rest of the building, however, received occupancy certificates in 2017.

The building went back on the auction block in summer 2019 and was acquired by West End LLC, which is seeking an amendment to the conditional zoning agreement granted by the city in 2012.

West End LLC has told the city that to make the property financially viable while maintaining its historic nature the remaining portions of the building must be converted into an additional six housing units.

There are now five residential condominiums in the building.

The Planning Board will be looking at allowing the additional residential density, requiring off-street parking, amending setback requirements, and limiting the property’s permitted uses.