200 Federal Street | Residential Tower | Portland

Urban World

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I truly hope Redfern does not believe this is an improvement over their original design. This new rendering is terribly blase and cheap looking. I see more gray in use as is the current trend. Come on guys, you can do a lot better than this.
This isn't a rendering, it's an elevation. Knowing how this process works, the developer has probably already discussed the design with staff over a year or so, and attempted to incorporate reasonable suggestions where possible in hopes that the planning board's first review of the project is as smooth as possible. I'd also note that, while I am not suggesting anyone would be wow'd by this design (which I actually don't think is all that bad at all!), the same is arguably true for virtually every other high-rise in Portland (with a couple of hopefully obvious exceptions). Nevertheless, they add to the urban fabric and are better than the empty lots they usually replace. It is also not uncommon for a project to come out of planning review looking much different than it went in. So I would encourage everyone to view this as a starting point, and reserve judgment for the actual meetings. Lastly, as popular as Portland is, it is not NYC or even Boston, which I realize goes without saying, but it bears emphasis because the economics of a project like this provide fewer opportunities to make bold architectural statements than may be the case in those larger markets. Just my two cents!
 

Portlander

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I actually like the building's design and think it's materials and color choices blend in well with the surrounding environment. If it was an office building instead of residential use there might be more options to make a bolder statement and cater to an anchor tenant's needs. I would think that the parcel's narrow footprint in addition to Redfern's feasibility constraints would limit the project's architects and engineers in their ability to create an "out of the box" structure for Portland and would probably energize the local NIMBY contingent even more.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Lastly, as popular as Portland is, it is not NYC or even Boston, which I realize goes without saying, but it bears emphasis because the economics of a project like this provide fewer opportunities to make bold architectural statements than may be the case in those larger markets. Just my two cents!
I think this is probably the bigger hurdle than anything. Going for "Wow!" doesn't come cheap, especially with the cost of building materials continuing to be wonky. They need the extra height just to make the economics of building this work. Going for "Wow!" means an even taller structure, which could inevitably be derailed by local NIMBY opposition.

I think it's a safe design. I don't hate it or love it. I'm not a trained architect like many of you, but personally I'd like to see some darker accents on the upper floors, similar to the "Metal Panel - Color 3" at the lower levels. Just something to break up all that lighter gray.
 
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Dr. StrangeHat

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Something along the lines of this (though I'm not totally in love with this either)

Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 9.46.25 AM.png

Capture.PNG
 
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GIL

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This isn't a rendering, it's an elevation. Knowing how this process works, the developer has probably already discussed the design with staff over a year or so, and attempted to incorporate reasonable suggestions where possible in hopes that the planning board's first review of the project is as smooth as possible. I'd also note that, while I am not suggesting anyone would be wow'd by this design (which I actually don't think is all that bad at all!), the same is arguably true for virtually every other high-rise in Portland (with a couple of hopefully obvious exceptions). Nevertheless, they add to the urban fabric and are better than the empty lots they usually replace. It is also not uncommon for a project to come out of planning review looking much different than it went in. So I would encourage everyone to view this as a starting point, and reserve judgment for the actual meetings. Lastly, as popular as Portland is, it is not NYC or even Boston, which I realize goes without saying, but it bears emphasis because the economics of a project like this provide fewer opportunities to make bold architectural statements than may be the case in those larger markets. Just my two cents!
Thank you for clarifying — I think the designs on this site for 170 Fore Street are a great example of creativity and variety incorporated in a way that feels appropriate for residential. Based on the finished product of the Hiawatha, I think Redfern are a great developer for this site — it will be interesting to see how they produce at this scale.
 

DZH22

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Let's be honest, there is not a single "wow" residential in the entire Boston metro that is 204' or lower. (unless you want to go with very historical stuff which is another class altogether) We have the 280' "Treehouse" at MassArt which is way too bold for Portland and would stick out like a sore thumb. It works here because there are so many different styles, and it's like our 90th tallest building. We have the 3 new Echelon buildings at approximately 250' each which look pretty damn good. But even just 250' is almost 25% taller than 204'. It's very difficult to be bold or iconic with a building that short, even when it happens to be the tallest in a city. The only ones I can think of here that would be iconic and shorter than 200' are the Northeastern ISEC complex buildings (1 built, 1 pending). But that's a science center at a university, not a regular old residential. I just don't see any way of making a statement building like this when it's only 204'. With that said, it has grown on me a little bit and will fit Portland pretty well. If you guys can get another taller, thinner one pushing 250' that could be your opportunity for something more memorable. This could be a good bridge, setting a precedent for a bit more height and leading to something better.
 

markhb

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Looking more closely at the elevation and the materials, I notice that it appears to be using the same Z-Brick siding (or similar) that was so controversial on the Portland Harbor Hotel (or at least I think it is). I wonder how well that will go with the PB.
 

MartinS

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Uploaded to Emporis for approval. Should be a couple of days. Working on the submission to CTBUH.
 

GIL

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Let's be honest, there is not a single "wow" residential in the entire Boston metro that is 204' or lower. (unless you want to go with very historical stuff which is another class altogether) We have the 280' "Treehouse" at MassArt which is way too bold for Portland and would stick out like a sore thumb. It works here because there are so many different styles, and it's like our 90th tallest building. We have the 3 new Echelon buildings at approximately 250' each which look pretty damn good. But even just 250' is almost 25% taller than 204'. It's very difficult to be bold or iconic with a building that short, even when it happens to be the tallest in a city. The only ones I can think of here that would be iconic and shorter than 200' are the Northeastern ISEC complex buildings (1 built, 1 pending). But that's a science center at a university, not a regular old residential. I just don't see any way of making a statement building like this when it's only 204'. With that said, it has grown on me a little bit and will fit Portland pretty well. If you guys can get another taller, thinner one pushing 250' that could be your opportunity for something more memorable. This could be a good bridge, setting a precedent for a bit more height and leading to something better.
I definitely don’t think Portland needs to have a “height complex” about itself: the Portland Head Lighthouse and the Portland Observatory are the iconic architectural jewels that are internationally recognized and no other city could match. Quality over quantity (of floors) every time — authenticity is a critical component of Portland’s brand.
 

DZH22

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I definitely don’t think Portland needs to have a “height complex” about itself: the Portland Head Lighthouse and the Portland Observatory are the iconic architectural jewels that are internationally recognized and no other city could match. Quality over quantity (of floors) every time — authenticity is a critical component of Portland’s brand.
Portland Head - 1787
Portland Observatory - 1807

So basically what you are saying is that (A) nothing exemplary has been built in Portland in 213 years, and (B) that's totally OK and Portland shouldn't ever strive for memorable modern architecture.

I would level the opposite argument. Crappy architecture dilutes the existing urban environment. If Portland is always content to let buildings from the 1970's-1990's be the city peaks, and then only add "meh" 5-7 story buildings going forward, then visually it is only downhill from here. With attitudes like that, please stay away from Boston. No, we will never build another "Old State House" or anything like that. But we are building high quality towers that draw the eye away from the 70's and 80's boxes that dominated the cityscape for the past 30 years. Maybe you think the embarrassing Franklin Towers should always be the tallest in Portland. I'm glad not everybody thinks like you. It is possible to have good architecture in 2020.
 

Portlander

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Martin, there is a Wikipedia site that shows the tallest building in each state and currently there is a church in Lewiston that is listed as Maine's tallest which is totally bogus. There is at least a footnote showing Franklin Towers (175') as Maine's tallest occupied building. However, at the bottom of the page there is a section for upcoming/new construction/proposed buildings that would take over the title of the state's tallest and maybe with your height expertise and computer skills you could add 200 Federal Street for Portland? CityPlace is still listed as proposed for Burlington, VT at 14 floors and 160' and that project was downsized to 10 floors and is currently stalled so I think the criteria for adding or deleting something new is pretty liberal.
 
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GIL

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Portland Head - 1787
Portland Observatory - 1807

So basically what you are saying is that (A) nothing exemplary has been built in Portland in 213 years, and (B) that's totally OK and Portland shouldn't ever strive for memorable modern architecture.

I would level the opposite argument. Crappy architecture dilutes the existing urban environment. If Portland is always content to let buildings from the 1970's-1990's be the city peaks, and then only add "meh" 5-7 story buildings going forward, then visually it is only downhill from here. With attitudes like that, please stay away from Boston. No, we will never build another "Old State House" or anything like that. But we are building high quality towers that draw the eye away from the 70's and 80's boxes that dominated the cityscape for the past 30 years. Maybe you think the embarrassing Franklin Towers should always be the tallest in Portland. I'm glad not everybody thinks like you. It is possible to have good architecture in 2020.
:) None of your assumptions about the intention of my comment align with my perspective – however, like you say, I'm glad not everybody thinks like me, and I appreciate your enthusiasm.
 

DZH22

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:) None of your assumptions about the intention of my comment align with my perspective....
Well truthfully, your comment didn't really seem to have anything to do with the one I had originally posted. I can't figure out how they are supposed to tie together. I even made the caveat that historical buildings were different, and was just talking about modern architecture (basically post 1950). It honestly saddens me when so many people seem content to never strive for greatness in the present, and just try to live in the past. So since you already have 2 great buildings from over 200 years ago, there is no reason to ever build anything else worth being proud of?

Earlier comments talked about things like "wow!" structures or bold, iconic statement buildings. One of them alluded to it happening down here in Boston. I was pointing out that, at that height point, it decidedly was NOT happening down here either! The ~750' 1 Dalton and 685' Millennium Tower are both dynamite icons. The ~535' Sudbury (Bulfinch residential) appears to be a very strong finished product. Everything else residential (non-historical) falls between good to OK to meh to blech. Aside from Treehouse, none of it is particularly memorable or iconic looking. We needed height, and a lot of it, to get our highest quality buildings. Look at Avalon NS for instance. It's 449', but the materials are ehhhh, and the design is an absolute mess. Hub residential is 496', but the design isn't memorable, and sure the glass is halfway decent, but the patterns and notch at the top are absolute nonsense.

Even when (if) we catch lightning in a bottle on a shorter building, such as something like this one linked below, it's still 315' (probably wouldn't work in Portland and definitely not at 204') and it's maybe a once a decade proposition at best. For every one of these, we have 10 duds, 10 ok's, 10 good enough's, and 10 that are probably pretty solid but never get built. I'm worried this one won't get built either, and will fall onto the top of the scrapheap with the Copley Place Tower.
 

Portlander

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The amendment to the Downtown Height Overlay Map will need to be approved before the project can be reviewed and recommended by the Planning Board and final vote by the City Council. This does not include studies like traffic and wind, along with permitting from numerous city, state and federal agencies. It's a slow process and my best guess if all goes well would be a fall 2021 groundbreaking with occupancy slated for the spring of 2023.
 

TC_zoid

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The amendment to the Downtown Height Overlay Map will need to be approved before the project can be reviewed and recommended by the Planning Board and final vote by the City Council. This does not include studies like traffic and wind, along with permitting from numerous city, state and federal agencies. It's a slow process and my best guess if all goes well would be a fall 2021 groundbreaking with occupancy slated for the spring of 2023.
And don't forget that one West End resident with money and connections to lawyers. His second floor or attic height roof deck view of the Portland Observatory will be blocked by this "skyscraper." It's exactly down the line of site. It could kill the whole project.
 

PWMFlyer

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NEW DEVELOPMENT REVIEW PROJECT NOTICES
Posted on: October 28, 2020New Development Review Project - 200 Federal Street
To residents and property owners: Redfern Downtown, LLC has submitted a Level III Site Plan and Subdivision application to facilitate the development of an 18 story, 180,000 square foot mixed use building with 266 residential units and ground-floor commercial space. The subject property is 55,321 square feet in size, is zoned B-3 Downtown Business, and is located within the Congress Street Historic District. ZN-001230-2020, has also been submitted for this project. In accordance with the Portland Land Use Ordinance, notices of receipt of a Level III Site Plan application must be sent to property owners within 500 ft. of the subject property (or 1,000 ft. if the project is a subdivision or map amendment for a site located within an Industrial Zone). You will be notified of future Planning Board meetings by receiving notices from the Planning Division prior to any workshops or public hearings.
A project and plan summary is available for viewing on the Citizen Self Service Portal (https://css.portlandmaine.gov/), by referencing Plan Number PL-001235-2020. Written comments should be submitted to planningboard@portlandmaine.gov. If you have any questions regarding the proposal, please contact Caitlin Cameron, Urban Designer, by phone at 207-874-8901 or e-mail at ccameron@portlandmaine.gov.
 

Portlander

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Think I'm going to send Caitlin Cameron an e-mail expressing my support for this project.
 

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