City meets with developers to discuss issues
By Chris Busby
Construction of the huge Riverwalk residential, office, retail and parking garage development on Portland’s eastern waterfront appears to have stopped, as rumors swirl that financing issues and other difficulties are hobbling the $100 million-plus project.
Construction workers have been removing equipment from the site of the partially built parking garage along Fore Street this week. Project spokesman and development partner Drew Swenson has not returned calls seeking comment. An assistant for project partner Fred Forsley directed questions to Swenson.
In response to inquiries, City Manager Joe Gray’s office released a statement this afternoon confirming that city staff met with the developers this morning, and further meetings are expected, but offering little insight beyond that.
“The economy is a factor for them just like it is for everyone,” Gray’s statement read, “so while it is certainly understandable that there may be some delays, that is not a given at this point in time.”
Mayor Ed Suslovic attended today’s meeting. “It sounds like they’re doing some reconfiguring on financing,” he said. “The concern from the city’s standpoint is the parking garage.”
The 720-car, six-deck garage was expected to be completed next spring. Its timely completion is especially important to islanders whose mainland parking options are being limited by other construction in the area – most notably Ocean Gateway, the public marine passenger terminal expected to be completed next spring.
Suslovic could offer no further insights into the project’s prospects, but he also said it is too soon to definitively say it will be delayed. He added that there was some talk of “material shortages,” but said he was “unclear” whether construction had halted as a result.
Other elected officials are also in the dark. “It looked like work was slowing down and there may be some funding issues,” said Councilor Nick Mavodones. “I’ve heard people say they’re looking for financers.”
Riverwalk LLC, the original partnership behind the project, has since established a financial partnership with Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., a Boston-based development company. A call placed earlier today to Nick Iselin, Intercontinental’s development director, was not returned.
Retail space at the base of the garage is being marketed by Malone Commercial Brokers, a Portland firm. Peter Harrington, the broker handling leasing of the space, did not return a call seeking comment today. Promotional materials on Malone’s Web site say the garage and retail space are scheduled to be completed and available next April.
In addition to the garage, a five-story office building is planned to rise next door, at the corner of Fore and India streets. Malone’s promotional materials say that building is expected to be ready by the end of next year.
In addition to the garage and office building, Riverwalk has planned to build a 122-unit luxury condominium complex – with underground parking, a restaurant and additional retail space – along the newly paved eastward extension of Commercial Street, called Thames Street. There’s little evidence of any progress on that phase of the development.
All told, the four-acre project’s value could top $100 million. The city sold Riverwalk a parcel of land in 2005 and agreed to give the developers a $5 million tax break to facilitate construction of the garage, which is also intended to meet demand created by Ocean Gateway.