Energy Islanding: Creating Microgrids for Grid Resiliency and On Site Generation

Geoff Sparrow, ReVision Energy and Dan Kelley, Woodard & Curran

Microgrids are a localized grouping of electricity sources that operate and connect to the centralized grid but can also disconnect and function autonomously. These systems can serve a number of functions, including providing continuous electricity for buildings that cannot lose power or providing back-up power for emergency shelters in municipalities that are wisely preparing for resiliency in the face of increasingly severe weather patterns. In addition, when integrating renewable energy sources, microgrids support a flexible and more efficient electric grid.

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The traditional, centralized electric grid that has serviced cities and towns for decades contributes to a dramatic loss in energy during transmission and distribution. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that conventional electric transmission and distribution loses on average about 6% of the electricity that is transmitted and distributed domestically each year. A large percentage of energy is lost in the production of electricity at the source, so this additional 6% loss during transmission and distribution is significant. A microgrid can substantially minimize this energy loss and the inefficient process of burning fossil fuels from power plants.

Microgrids can produce and store energy from a number of different sources. Solar, wind, steam/gas turbines, and fuel cells are efficient ways for communities or mission critical assets to produce their own energy and have the ability to function without the power grid.  These mission critical assets (hospitals, government buildings, data centers, community storm shelters) depend on a constant and reliable source of energy to function. Microgrids are resilient, fuel efficient, and can provide these establishments with an energy source during a centralized grid outage.

Storing energy in a microgrid relies on battery storage and/or a system that stores energy thermally for domestic water heating, process heating, and/or space heating. Combined Heat and Power plants (CHP) use internal combustion engines or steam turbines to allow for a portion of the energy production to be used for electricity production and the excess heat energy to be used for thermal loads. This technique is extremely efficient compared to a single-stage, high-mass, fossil-fuel boiler. There is no need for the establishment to buy and maintain backup generators, and these microgrid systems lead to an increase in property value.

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Microgrids are scalable and exist in residential, small/large commercial, and district-size systems. Residential and small commercial systems typically consist of a solar energy system, battery storage, and a backup generator. Large commercial and district sites typically add CHP to the energy mix. These larger sites are also able to manage their demand charges, meaning they can charge up their batteries during times of low demand and discharge during peak energy demand periods. Demand charges can vary from  $10 dollars to more than $50 per kW and typically make up half of the electric bill of a commercial facility. Mitigating these peak demand charges with a microgrid allows for significant savings to the utility customer.

The price of solar energy with batteries has dropped significantly in the past few decades. A 30% federal tax credit, rebates, grants, and accelerated depreciation are important advantages that can be utilized when investing in a solar electric system with or without battery storage. CHP systems have also come down in price and offer an array of plant sizes that are compatible with everything from small commercial projects to large institutions. The typical payback of these systems range from 7-12 years with a 40-year serviceable lifespan, making these systems affordable and practical.

Microgrid systems can act as a service to utilities by helping them manage the ever fluctuating demand on the power grid. The vision for the utility of tomorrow is that every customer has their own microgrid capabilities that can act as a service to the utility when it is there and can provide ‘offline’ power when it isn’t.

 

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Elects William Schad to its Board of Directors

Bill SchadWilliam Schad of North Yarmouth has been elected to the board of directors of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers.

William Schad is Southern Maine Commercial Regional Vice President at TD Bank. Over the course of his career with TD Bank, William has focused on C&I, tax exempt and investment real estate lending in the greater Portland market.

In addition to his work with TD Bank, William has served as a Board Member for Counseling Services, Inc. Junior Achievement of Maine and Ronald McDonald House of Portland.

MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark says, “Bill will be a great addition to MEREDA’s Board of Directors, bringing with him great expertise and industry knowledge. We’re anxious to begin working with him.”

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 or visit www.mereda.org.

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Names New President and Announces 2016-17 Officers

Paul Peck May 2010 croppedPaul Peck, attorney at Drummond & Drummond and real estate developer with LWS Development LLC is the new president of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers. Founded in 1985, MEREDA promotes responsible development and ownership of real estate in Maine through legislative advocacy, educational programs and professional networking opportunities.

Paul succeeds Michael O’Reilly of Bangor Savings Bank who has led MEREDA for the past two years. “Mike has been a great inspiration to our fellow board members, and under his leadership, MEREDA remains committed and positioned for future growth and success”, said Peck.  “I welcome the opportunity to guide the organization in its continued pursuit of advocating for legislation in Augusta that encourages responsible development and sensible planning, as well as providing quality opportunities for learning and business development.”

Since joining the Board of Directors in 2010, Paul has chaired the Conference & Seminar Committee and also serves on its Executive Committee.

MEREDA also announced its 2016 / 2017 slate of officers which include President Paul Peck of Drummond & Drummond, Vice Presidents Bruce Jones of Creative Office Pavilion and Brian Curley of PDT Architects, Treasurer William Shanahan, of Northern New England Housing Investment Fund and Secretary Shelly R. Clark, who also serves full time as MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations.

L-R: Bruce Jones, Brian Curley, Bill Shanahan, Shelly R. Clark

L-R: Bruce Jones, Brian Curley, Bill Shanahan, Shelly R. Clark

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 or visit www.mereda.org.

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The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on the Circular Block Building

In the second of a 6-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation.  MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.  Please join with us in celebrating the Circular Block Building in Bangor.  A conversation with developer, Robert Perry Builders.

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MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Robert Perry Builders:  The original 13000 sq. foot circular building was an unoccupied shell that was built in 1869 for Merchant’s Bank, but had been empty for several years.  An additional 4000 sq. feet was added to the project with the purchase of an adjacent building.  The buildings were renovated to house seven luxury apartments, a restaurant and a jewelry shop located in  West Market Square – the hub for downtown Bangor.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?

Robert Perry Builders:  The owner had been looking for an investment that would enhance the revitalization going on in downtown Bangor.   The Circular Block building was an anchor building for West Market Square area that had been sitting empty, but had gone through some earlier roofing and structural work.  With the need of retail and residential space in the downtown area the city was very supportive of the project by providing a TIF to assist in the project.   In addition the city was working on the phase 1 improvements of West Market Square with the replacement of water lines, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along Broad Street so the timing for the project was able to coincide with those renovations.

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MEREDA:  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Robert Perry Builders:  The first building was purchased in the fall of 2013 and WBRC Architects/Engineers began working on the designs for the space soon after.  The construction started at the beginning of 2014 for the apartments so the planning process was very quick.  The construction lasted almost a year and came in on time and on budget for the apartments.  The construction of  the first floor restaurant began soon after with a completion of date of early summer 2015.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Robert Perry Builders:  Maximizing every bit of area for living space in the unique circular shape of the building and pie shaped apartments proved to be a challenge.  All of the mechanical systems in the building were customized to fit the unique space.    Also, the addition of a 2nd attached building in the Spring of 2014 added some challenges with trying to incorporate it into the existing project  after it had started.  The work that the city was doing on Broad Street at the time did provide some challenges, but the timing of that project only benefitted our renovation in the end.

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MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Robert Perry Builders:  There were many people who did not think the idea of high end luxury living space in downtown Bangor would work so we were concerned about whether we would  have a problem filling them, but there is a definitely a market for them and we now have a waiting list. The demand has been a little unexpected, but it was what we hoped to see happen.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Robert Perry Builders:  The Circular Block Building stands out in Bangor as an example of maintaining the character and history of a building yet modernizing it to suit the needs of a changing downtown community.  It provides superior living accommodations that far exceed what is currently offered in most of downtown.  We have seen the resurgence of people wanting to get back to downtown community living.  People love the idea of being able to live in a thriving central location of the city close to all of the exciting things happening in downtown.

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Lead Paint and Drinking Water in Maine – Now Under Even More Scrutiny, with More Enforcement and Liability Issues Coming

Ken Gray and Dixon Pike, Pierce Atwood LLP

Lead paint is a well-known problem for older homes, and lead in residential drinking water from historic plumbing is also a recognized issue in Maine.  Lead can be a serious problem if children or pregnant women are exposed at levels of concern.  Recent events in Auburn and Lewiston have heightened awareness, and are leading to action by federal and state officials.  It is virtually certain that this matter will lead to attention in other cities, in part, as a result of the recent drinking water issues in Flint, Michigan.

In 2015, the Auburn Water District alerted its customers that the drinking water had exceeded action levels in enough homes to require formal notification and an investigation into the cause, which is likely from customers’ plumbing systems as lead has not been detected in Lake Auburn water.  The Lewiston water system is not currently in non-compliance status, but levels are just under the action figure, probably for the same reason. And in early June, Maine news reports are suggesting that the drinking water testing protocols are not as stringent as they should be in light of EPA recommendations made earlier this year.

On the state level, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) recently proposed a more stringent standard (from 15 ug/dL to 5 ug/dL) for defining persons as “lead poisoned”.  If the proposed standard is adopted, more children and adults will fall into the “lead poisoned” category, raising concerns among persons who are tested.  Under the rules, DHHS can investigate, post a public notice of the lead hazard for tenants and owners, and order abatement within 30 days.

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator announced an unusual inspection initiative in Lewiston-Auburn.  Starting in June, EPA will be inspecting work projects in Lewiston-Auburn to ensure that painting and renovation contractors, landlords, and property management companies are following EPA rules.  These federal rules closely regulate activities that disturb or renovate lead paint (as do state rules).  EPA rules also require notification to tenants of lead paint hazards.  Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald has just proposed targeting landlords with lead problems as soon as possible.

EPA has enforced its rules and exacted penalties from lead renovation contractors and landlords in Maine and elsewhere.  The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has also enforced its own rules on lead paint renovation.  DEP has reported they are gearing up to address more lead issues from all of these efforts.

It is highly likely there will be increased enforcement in the Lewiston-Auburn area.  While the immediate focus is on the Lewiston-Auburn area, this effort will likely bring closer scrutiny of older buildings in other parts of the State, as most cities and towns have housing stock of the same age, and news reports will raise visibility of the issue.  It also seems likely that there will also be additional blood testing, given greater awareness by the public.

If you have questions or concerns about the EPA and state lead notification requirements, contractor renovation re quirements, liability arising from leasing, or other lead-related matters, please contact Ken Gray (207-791-1212 or Kgray@PierceAtwood.com) or Dixon Pike (207-791-1374 or dpike@pierceatwood.com).

Original article dated June 7, 2016

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Recognizes Retiring Board Member

The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) has announced that Lawrence A. Wold, president of TD Bank has retired from MEREDA’s Board of Directors after 18 years of service. During this time, Larry served as president from 2000 – 2002 and was recognized with MEREDA’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2003.  During his tenure, Larry spearheaded an initiative to assist with MEREDA’s new member recruitment efforts.  Fourteen years later, the TD Bank Membership Recruitment Matching Funds Program continues to help introduce new members to the organization and makes a major contribution to MEREDA’s continued growth and success.

“MEREDA has benefited significantly from Larry’s wisdom, broad experience, and unwavering support through the years.  We are grateful and thank Larry for his countless contributions to the organization,” commented Shelly R. Clark, Vice President of Operations for MEREDA.

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 for visit www.mereda.org.

 

 

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3 Ways to a Faster Commercial Mortgage Loan Decision

By Aaron Cannan | Senior VP, Commercial Services Officer, Katahdin Trust

When you want to make a real estate investment or re-visit your existing financing, the last thing you want to do is spend your time waiting for a lenders credit decision. Fortunately, you can help speed up the decision process and increase the chances of having your loan approved by taking the following actions before you submit your application.

The current finance marketplace includes a wide array of lenders which include traditional, platform, and peer-to-peer options.  Each offers wildly varying qualification requirements, servicing standards and loan programs.  Each investor has different priorities on their financing.  Understanding your own individual priorities will guide you on picking the most appropriate financing partner.

Approach a Community Bank

Maine benefits from a very healthy banking industry.  Maine Banks are pillars of their respective communities.  Their employees are your neighbors and are active community volunteers.  Most important and relevant to this topic, Maine Banks want to lend money!

Although some obvious bias should be noted, this writer firmly believes that community banks offer the best combination of loan terms, loan interest rates, loan servicing, and customer service.  Further, credit decisions in community banks are made locally.  “Buy Local” is a popular mantra in today’s economy.  This certainly applies to where you do your financing.   Local credit decision making is not just a marketing tag line.  Not only is local decision making based in local knowledge, but it tends to be more responsive and timely.

Be Prepared

When you apply for a commercial mortgage loan, you’ll need to give your potential lender a complete picture of your financial background.  In addition, the lender will need to review the financial history/projections for the investment being financed.  Often this will include tax returns, financial statements, and asset and liability documentation. Having these materials in hand at application will put you ahead of the curve and clarify any questions a lender may have about your financial history. Organized documentation of your financial history conveys many positive qualities and attributes to a lender.   Full disclosure of both positive and negative factors in your financial history early in the process will speed the application and underwriting process.

Build a Team

Any successful investor or businessman depends on a strong team of supporting professionals. Finding trusted experts to work with you, such as an accountant, an insurance advisor, and an attorney, will create a foundation for your business’ success.  Identifying and communicating clearly with a team of experts at the early stages of an investment decision is important.  Managing the tax, legal, and insurance environments are critical elements to an investment.

By connecting with those professionals early on, you’ll show lenders that you’re serious, committed, and credible. You’ll also build relationships with people who can not only help you with your current project, but also be an on-going resource over time.

Final Thoughts

Getting a fast decision on your loan might take a little more preparation in the beginning, but by taking these steps, you’ll increase your chances of a positive outcome, and the information, plans, and professional contacts you gather will be vital to your business’ success long after your loan is closed.

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Aaron Cannan is a Senior Vice President and Commercial Services Officer for Katahdin Trust and is responsible for small business lending and development in the Southern Maine Area.  Aaron has been working hand-in-hand with businesses for almost twenty years and is committed to helping businesses succeed. Click here for more information on Katahdin Trust.

Article originally posted here:
www.katahdintrust.com/ContentPage.aspx?name=REI+Blog+Post+1

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Homeownership Remains Affordable; Rentals Less So

Richard E. Taylor, Research Manager at MaineHousing

MaineHousing has released the 2015 Maine Home Ownership and Rental Affordability Index. This latest index reveals little change in affordability from 2014 to 2015 for both home buyers and renters in Maine. Home buying remains affordable while renting is still unaffordable though showing signs of improvement.

Homeownership Affordability

The index, used by Maine housing market analysts, provides a statewide and county snapshot of home buying and rental affordability. The home buying measurement is based on the ratio of home price affordable at median income to median home price. A ratio at or above 1 indicates homes are affordable while an index of .99 or below indicates they are not affordable.

For the second year in a row the index indicated that home buying in Maine remained affordable, although the index dropped from 1.04 in 2014 to 1.03 in 2015 due to a 4% increase in median home prices over 2014. The improved home affordability we’ve seen over the past two years is due in part to the post- recession declines in median home prices, interest rates, and consumer confidence. Median home prices plunged 14% from a high of $185,900 in 2007 to a low of $158,000 in 2009. From 2010 to 2014 prices improved only a mere 3%. As home prices fell so too did interest rates from a high of nearly 7% in July of 2006 to a low of 3% in December of 2012. Declining interest rates and home prices should have stimulated the real estate market but consumer wariness dampened buying. Higher inventories of foreclosed low priced housing, an unwillingness of owners now owing more than the value of their home to sell, and the tendency of buyers to wait for the market to hit bottom all contributed to the slow housing market recovery.

Improving median incomes should also have helped improve the housing market but the increases in income, like the recovery itself, was too little and too slow. Between 2005 and 2009 median household income actually increased 9% but slowed to just 2% from 2010 to 2014. The slow growth in income and an even slower growth in median home prices have combined to make buying a home affordable.

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Another variable to consider is the home vacancy and home ownership rates. A continued ten year downward trend in vacancy and ownership rates could further dampen the chances of more robust increases in the median home sales price. The relationship between inventories and house prices is generally positive with inventories rising with increased home prices. This relationship seems contradictory. With all else the same, rising house prices will draw homeowners into the market increasing inventory while lower prices provide less incentive to sell.

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Another interesting development is the increasing preference to rent as opposed to buying despite the favorable conditions for buying.Decennial Census data from 2000 to 2010 revealed the preference for renting. More recently the 5-year Census numbers corroborated this shift to renting.

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An outlier with potential impact on home buying affordability is the millennial generation. This generation has not entered the home buying market at similar rates as preceding generations. Their reluctance to enter the market has been discussed in numerous studies that focused primarily on the economic and financial challenges they have faced or witnessed since the recession ranging from student loan debt to lack of savings needed to make a down payment. Recent data suggests their preference for renting in Maine remains stronger than buying. Between 2009 and 2014 millennial homeowners, 25  34 declined 13% while renters of this age increased 4%. In addition, this segment of the population is projected to peak in 2017 and then decline as a percentage of the total population. Still, at an estimated 229,000 strong, they can impact housing and evidence suggests they will in the coming year.

Finally, it should be pointed out that while buying a home has become more affordable, owning one is often not. In 2014 33% of owners with a mortgage were paying more than 30% of their income on housing related costs — an improvement from 35% in 2009. The percentage of owners without a mortgage paying over 30% of income on housing dropped from 18% to 17% over the same span of time. Despite the improved numbers, these homeowners are considered cost burdened.

Rental Affordability

The rental affordability index measurement is based on the ratio of a 2-bedroom rent affordable at median renter income to average 2-bedroom rent. An index of less than 1 means the area is generally unaffordable while an index of 1 or above indicates affordability.

In 2015 renting an apartment remained unaffordable. Historically buying a home had been financially more difficult than renting. That changed in 2011, just two years into the recovery. Unlike home buying, the renting index actually improved from .84 in 2014 to .89 in 2015 due to a slight drop in the average 2-bedroom rent statewide. The reasons renting remains unaffordable in Maine are rooted, like home buying affordability, in the recession.

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Demand for rentals increased when we saw a rise in foreclosures during and immediately after the recession. Reluctance about buying a home combined with the impact of higher unemployment and slow income growth coming out of the recession all worked to slow homeownership and make renting appear to be a better option. Additionally rental units, though older than owned, generally have fewer bedrooms and less space making them a more attractive option from a heating cost perspective. Add to this tougher credit restrictions and the need to save for down payment and closing costs for buying and you have increased demand for renting. The problem has become particularly acute in the Portland and Rockland regions, reflecting Maine’s population shift toward the southern and coastal areas.

Average 2-bedroom rents decreased 3% from 2005 to 2009 far less than the 14% decrease we saw in home prices. Unlike home prices however, average rental prices then increased 7% from 2010 to 2014. As this was happening median renter incomes rose from 7% 2005 to 2009 but then decreased 5% by 2014. The chart below illustrates how increasing average 2-bedroom rents outpaced renter income. The exact opposite happened to home buyers.

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Renting will remain unaffordable in Maine through 2017 and possibly into 2018 as a result of a limited supply. Despite a recent increase in permit activity for multifamily residential units, the supply of single family (owned) homes has grown significantly faster than rental units over the past three decades. Nationally, multifamily construction has led the way during the recovery but not as much in Maine. In fact, multifamily construction in Maine has lagged behind single family construction for three decades. Nearly 84% of residential permits in Maine were issued for single family units in contrast to 16% multifamily since the 1980’s. Absent more rental construction, the rental vacancy rate will continue to decline and if demand continues to increase so will rents. In addition, as more owners now find themselves able to gain from selling their home instead of renting it, rental stock will drop putting additional upward pressure on rents.

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Another important variable that will keep demand on rental units high is renters’ income. Of 158,000 renter households only an estimated 25% (37,280) earn enough to buy a home at the median home price. And, 52% of renter households in Maine pay more than 30% of their income for housing and 80% of those pay over 35%. Additional supply of rental units is needed to meet both general market demand and a growing population of Maine renters needing rental assistance.

The Future

Buying a home should remain affordable through 2016 and possibly into 2017. While continued growth in jobs and income, home prices and interest rates should improve overall market conditions, it will likely happen at a slow pace. For buyers, the continued down payment and closing cost assistance program now incorporated as part of MaineHousing’s First Time Home Buyer Loan Program will add additional home buyers and in particular millennials. In 2015 nearly 60% of program participants were millennials — a homebuying rate that exceeds the market at large and suggests that millennials do indeed want to buy. Looking to the future, as the market improves for buyers, affordability will decrease. Buying a home is affordable, for now.

More quality supply is needed to alleviate housing affordability for renters in Maine. Declining vacancy rates and increasing rents are limiting the market for renters particularly in the coastal counties and urban areas. MaineHousing can seek to bring more renters into the home buying realm with targeted down payment and closing assistance. However, with slow income growth, many of these buyers will likely be cost burdened. Improved utilization of available energy assistance programs might reduce cost burden but the gains, given incomes, might only be marginal for renters. Renting in Maine still has a way to go before it becomes affordable. As long as it remains unaffordable, rental assistance programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers and the construction of subsidized housing will remain a necessity.

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Construction considerations in the craft beer industry

by Mason Rowell, Landry/French Construction Company

2016-06-14_BreweryPhoto3-1The explosion of craft brewing in the recent years has created a need for support of breweries from other industries, including construction and real estate. In a study conducted by the Brewers Association, the number of operating breweries in Maine increased by 13% in 2015, and the Maine Brewers’ Guild projects a total of 80 operating breweries in the state by the end of 2016. These small, independent and traditional brewers have plenty of room for continued growth as the industry shows no signs of slowing. Not only is the craft brewing industry booming, but the industries that provide supporting products and services are as well.

It is important for brewers to consider what they ultimately want and need in a space from the start in order to foster sustainable growth. Contractors can play a crucial role through the entire decision making process, from assisting in pre-planning and evaluating raw space to building or renovating to planning for future expansion.

All breweries have basic needs

Finding the right space to accommodate a brewery’s basic needs can take a long time, even up to a year in some cases. Often a brewery will consider the surrounding area and community more than at the actual space itself. Many even take unique spaces and convert them for their business. From the repurposed wharf in Belfast that Marshall Wharf Brewing Company calls home to the historic rail facility currently being renovated for Bissell Brothers Brewing Company at Thompson’s Point in Portland to former landscaping and salt shed that now houses Fore River Brewing Company in South Portland, brewers are getting creative in their renovations. However, unique facilities create challenges for the construction team to identify and address. It is imperative for contractors to work closely with brewers to problem solve issues early on in order to create a smooth start-up process.

Power, water quality, ceiling heights, venting, structural capacity and durability of flooring, and drainage are all major concerns when building out or renovating a brewery. For instance, brewing equipment can be rather large depending on the batch size the brewery produces. Standard size equipment can range anywhere from 300 to 1,200 square feet depending on the selected barrel system, and have heights in excess of 30 feet. Weighing these factors and how they impact a facility’s ceiling heights, floor space and access all require careful consideration in the planning process. Growth and expansion are best considered at the outset rather than as an afterthought. Including these plans into initial construction design is critical.

At the recent New England Craft Brew Summit, hosted by the Maine Brewers’ Guild, Peter Bissell, of the Bissell Brothers Brewing Company noted, “You need to look at the forest from the trees and always think of what’s next.”

When consulting with brewers, it is important to help them think about the space in terms of expansion over the next three to five years.

Tasting Rooms

Tasting rooms have become increasingly popular at breweries, as they provide an opportunity to share product with patrons, test out new brews and help increase revenue. Constructing a tasting room within a brewery brings up a number of additional considerations. These can include additional fire/life safety and separation, along with adequate egress routes in case of an emergency. Additional onsite parking is usually required due to increased traffic at the brewery. Finally, local authorities should be consulted, so that beer/liquor and food licensing requirements are clearly understood before a tasting room construction commences.

Partnering for the future

Young breweries do not always have a lot of capital for construction initially. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the need for expansion often comes quickly and needs to be accounted for in initial construction. This need for expansion underscores the importance of developing a trusting relationship between the contractor and brewery, as both parties are integral to achieving mutual success.

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The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on The Press Hotel

press hotel plaque photoIn the first of a 6-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation.  MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.  Please join with us in celebrating The Press Hotel.  A conversation with developer, Jim Brady, Brady Enterprises.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Jim Brady:  The Press Hotel is Portland’s first lifestyle boutique hotel, located at the corner of Congress and Exchange streets, directly across from City Hall. It consists of 110 luxury rooms, the Inkwell Bar, the 73-seat Union Restaurant and an art gallery that showcases local artists.  It sets itself apart from other hotels in the city by the way it tells the story of the historic Gannett building, former home of the Portland Press Herald offices and printing plant. The interior design elements include typewriters on the wall, type letters and headlines “dripping” down the corridor walls onto the carpet, and the large scale that was used to weigh enormous rolls of newsprint. It retains many original architectural details, including the original staircases and banisters, as well as vintage exterior lettering.

The project itself was complicated. The financing structure was extremely complex for a variety of reasons, partially because as an adaptive rehabilitation of an historic building in an historic district, we were eligible for both state and federal historic tax credits. New Market tax credits were involved, as well, and then the IRS changed its regulations during the lead up to the closing, which caused a restructuring of the entire deal.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project?

Jim Brady:  We really wanted to create a differentiated product that would offer a unique experience for each of our guests; an experience that highlights the best of Portland’s exciting food and arts scene while honoring it’s valued past. We wanted to present a truly new and innovative hotel experience.  We accomplished this by assembling a fantastic design team led by Stonehill & Taylor, an internationally-recognized interior design company that collaborated with Maine-based VIA Agency to tell the unique story of the building’s history.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process. How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Jim Brady:  We put the building under contract in July 2012, and construction began in January 2014, so just about 18 months. The permitting process went relatively smoothly because we were seeking approval for an adaptive reuse of a well-respected historic building in the Congress Street historic district with no major exterior changes. Construction lasted about 16 months, and the hotel opened in mid-May 2015.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Jim Brady:  The most challenging aspect was the complex financing structure. There was certainly a learning curve while working within the constraints and limitations of the three varied tax credits.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was …

Jim Brady:  That so many former Portland Press Herald employees contacted us throughout the process … and still do … to say how pleased they are that the building and its history has been so thoughtfully revitalized and honored. The stories they’ve shared continue to form the story that is The Press Hotel.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable?

Jim Brady:  The Press Hotel celebrates the history of the Gannett building and it’s publishing history, which our guests, as well as residents of Portland, truly appreciate. The hotel draws people from the Old Port to upper Exchange Street and Congress Street.  It’s a destination for locals and guests alike.

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