Big plans brewing around Brian Ború

This Center Street pub could be a Fore Street pub, or a pile of bricks, in the next year or so. (photos/Chris Busby)

Big plans brewing around Brian Ború 
Scarborough developer buys lot across from Civic Center

By Chris Busby

A Scarborough developer is squeezing the Portland Irish pub Brian Ború – literally. Developer Kerry Anderson recently purchased the lot surrounding Brian Ború, a sizeable parcel in the middle of town bounded by Spring, Center, Fore and Cotton streets. 

Ború co-owner Laurence Kelly said Anderson demanded he move the fence that encloses a small patio a few feet north, effectively shrinking the patio, because it was encroaching on his property line. Kelly and two other partners own both the century-old building and the land it occupies, but the surrounding lot is Anderson’s, including buildings occupied by the cocktail lounge Una, Portland Pie, the sports bar and restaurant Rivalries, and several offices.

Kelly said Anderson has spoken of developing a large “complex” on the lot, potentially comprised of a hotel, condominiums, retail shops, offices or some combination thereof. There’s also been discussion of a convention center, said Kelly, and interest from members of the Cumberland County Civic Center Board of Trustees. The Civic Center is diagonally across the intersection of Spring and Center streets from Anderson’s lot. 

Board Vice Chairman Neal Pratt, a Portland attorney and neighbor of Anderson’s in Scarborough, said he and fellow board member Fred Forsley have discussed the possibility of a development on Anderson’s lot that could complement the publicly owned Civic Center.

“I haven’t spoken to Kerry personally about this,” said Pratt. “Fred and I talked about it at one point as one of a hundred different possible ways to improve the Civic Center experience and enhance the economy generally.” 

That improvement, in theory, could take the form of a new or “expanded” civic center, Pratt said.

Anderson declined to discuss his plans for the property on the phone, and said he may be willing to discuss them with this reporter in person sometime early next month, depending on his impression of this article.

Forsley did not return calls seeking comment. 

The possibility Anderson’s recently acquired property could be linked to the Civic Center has not yet been a topic of discussion on the Civic Center board, Chairman Dale Olmstead said last week. Olmstead said the board supports the construction of a new civic center, and is currently “looking into various funding options to make that happen.” 

Kelly said Anderson and “a lot of different players” are in an early stage of discussions about the property’s future, and doesn’t expect Anderson to break ground for a couple years. Nevertheless, he points out bitterly, the fence and a kitchen exhaust pipe had to be moved this summer. A metal parking barrier along Center Street has already been extended to the foreshortened patio’s edge. Kelly said the fence was rebuilt a foot farther in than necessary to allow room to walk along its outer edge without “trespassing” on Anderson’s property.

Two years ago, Anderson partnered with a Boston-based company to begin development of Scarborough Gallery, a 630,000-square-foot project currently under construction just south of the juncture of Interstates 295 and 95. The project will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Lowe’s home improvement store and other retail businesses and restaurants. Anderson also recently developed a 222-unit housing project in Scarborough. 

In Portland, Anderson has partnered with real estate broker Tom Moulton to develop the building on the corner of Congress and Oak streets. The new bar and cocktail lounge The White Heart currently occupies the ground floor of that building, as does the office of Portland’s Downtown District. Several condominiums are being built on the floors above.

Kelly said he and his partners have talked with Anderson about Ború’s future, given the large-scale developments being considered for the site. Anderson “wanted to buy us out and destroy the building,” Kelly said, but he and his partners have resisted, offering to sell the pub for a “ridiculous price” as much as 10 times what the land and building are valued. 

A compromise option could involve wrapping the brick building, raising it, and sliding it on rails down to a pre-built foundation on Fore Street, next to Portland Pie, said Kelly. However, it’s not yet clear whether that option is either technically feasible or acceptable to Anderson.

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