110 Thames St.
A dispute with the city over an occupancy permit for the Sun Life building at 110 Thames St. in Portland was decided in favor of Portland Foreside Development Co. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)
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Progress on the massive Portland Foreside development on the city’s eastern waterfront continues to move forward, with the opening of a highly anticipated upscale restaurant last week.

The developers of the 58 Fore St. project on July 21 also successfully appealed the city’s denial of a building permit at 110 Thames St.

115 Thames St.
A former Portland Co. building that was dismantled and rebuilt at 115 Thames St. is now the home of much-anticipated Twelve restaurant. (Portland Phoenix/Colin Ellis)

The new restaurant, Twelve, is at 115 Thames St. along the Eastern Promenade trail. It is operated by Prentice Hospitality Group, which also has EVO Kitchen & Bar and the Chebeague Island Inn, and was named one of the country’s most anticipated restaurant openings of the year by Vogue magazine. It opened July 14 in the former Portland Co. building, which was taken down brick by brick and reconstructed in a new location.

Casey Prentice, managing partner of Portland Foreside Development Co., said in addition to Twelve having a successful opening, Bard Coffee is lined up to be a tenant in the Sun Life building at 110 Thames St. He said there are other tenants who have signed letters of intent to open businesses in the development, but he wasn’t at liberty to reveal who they are.

Prentice said the project has had “great traction” on the retail front, as evidenced by the Zoning Board of Appeals decision on the permit the city tried to deny for occupancy at 110 Thames St.

Prentice said because they designed the building to have an open concept, without traditional offices and cubicle spaces, the city wanted to classify it as an assembly space, similar to a theater or concert hall. Assembly space has a requirement of 15 square feet per person in the building; office space, on the other hand, has a requirement of 100 square feet per person.

Between Sun Life and a future tenant, the Portland Foreside and Sun Life said the building would at most have 737 occupants, and the developers said it’s unlikely everyone would be there at the same time. With office requirements, the occupant load would be around 1,000 people. With assembly space requirements, the occupant load would be 3,000 people.

Prentice said the city’s interpretation was “dramatically off,” and the appeal was unanimously granted.

Prentice was in Boston Monday, meeting with architects for the next step in the development, which is creating 250 market-rate apartments scheduled to go before the Planning Board in August. After that, they will begin work on a hotel and then a condominium project.

The project’s original master development plan was approved in 2016, two years after Portland Foreside purchased the property from Phineas Sprague. It was approved in early 2020, when its total cost was estimated at about $250 million.

The project is now estimated at about $1 billion, with full construction to take about a decade. Once fully realized, Portland Foreside will have 160,000 square feet of new office space, 100,000 square feet of new ground-level retail space, a waterfront hotel and spa, residences, more than 1,000 parking spaces, and the 200-slip Fore Points Marina.

The project in the past has been criticized by some Munjoy Hill residents, who have claimed the developers made changes to their plans without city approval. Even in their approval, Planning Board members acknowledged that the developers “blew through stop signs” along the way, such as when they installed temporary structures before receiving permission from the city.