Battle of the roof bars? Historic Portland hotel could expand grand salon

One of Maine’s most historic hotels could build a 2,200-square-foot addition on its roof, while what could be one of the state’s newest inns refine plans for its own structure on the roof.

The 93-year-old Westin Portland Harborview is proposing to build two outdoor patios adjoining its Top of the East Lounge, 15 floors above Congress Square in downtown Portland. The proposal goes to a public hearing Wednesday before the Portland Historic Preservation Board in the city’s first look at the project.

At the same meeting, the board is expected to discuss changes to a planned rooftop lounge at the 135-room Canopy by Hilton hotel, currently under construction at the corner of Center and Commercial streets. Hilton and Portland-based hotel developer Fathom Cos. Are already promoting Luna, the indoor-outdoor bar with a seventh-floor terrace, as “a first for the city.”

With the Canopy opening in the spring, Luna could indeed prove to be Portland’s premier outdoor space for high-rise refreshments. But first, he needs a lift.

The original plans, which were submitted to the board in April 2019, provided for staircase access from Luna to the terrace. But after a closer look at accessibility codes, the city determined that an elevator was needed. A previous design to add one was unsuccessful, and now Fathom and his manager, Jim Brady, are seeking approval for a modified plan.

Courtesy / Fathom Cos.

A render of the Canopy Hotel, currently under construction in Portland, shows the planned outdoor bar and rooftop terrace.

The new elevator structure would rise 17 feet above the terrace and include a 10 foot high vestibule. The patio itself would be 65 feet above street level, allowing guests to have a bird’s eye view of Portland’s waterfront to the south. The project has already received approval from the Portland Planning Board.

Meanwhile, within a 15-minute walk of the Canopy, the Westin may soon offer another new exterior view.

The plans, drawn by Denver-based Semple Brown Design, call for the expansion of Top of the East in two phases. A 900 square foot patio that could accommodate 49 people would be built on the south side of the existing living room, and a subsequent 1,300 square foot deck would extend to the northeast side of the roof, accommodating up to 59 people. Both the spaces would have wood-burning fireplaces, seating, lighting, and protective railings.

Westin’s sales and marketing manager Holly Henderson told Mainebiz on Tuesday that construction on the project was slated for 2021, but with plans just reviewed, that timeline is still rough.

The goal, she said, is to update the look and feel of the salon while retaining its current identity and “keeping it accessible.”

“We’re looking to completely refresh the space,” she said.

The Top of the East is an original part of the hotel, but has already doubled in size during a massive $ 50 million reconstruction and hotel rebranding in 2013.

The luxury hotel has 289 rooms and, since its construction in 1927, has hosted such figures as Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh.

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The Westin Portland Harborview, located at 157 High St. in downtown Portland, could add 2,200 square feet of outdoor seating space on the hotel’s rooftop.

The Westin’s decision to now build outdoors is part of a growing trend as the pandemic prompts hotels and guests to seek fresh air and great social distancing.

“There certainly seems to be more [rooftop bars] in hotels, especially in new construction, ”said Henderson.

A Virginia lifestyle magazine, RVA, reported in August: “Rooftop bars might once seem like a mere novelty, but in an age when adequate ventilation and enough space to socially distance are paramount, these outdoor places become downright essential.

Over the summer, another downtown Portland hotel, the 232-room Holiday Inn by the Bay, opened a rooftop pop-up lounge on the fifth floor of its adjoining parking lot. “Level 5”, as the outdoor bar was known, is now closed for the season. And in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a rooftop bar opened earlier this year atop the five-story AC hotel.

The Portland Historic Preservation Board must issue a Certificate of Suitability for the Westin Project to move forward, while Fathom Cos. seeks to change his certificate issued last year. The board meets at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and remote access information can be found here.

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Sandy A. Greer

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