A New lease on life for Portland’s elks club

A New lease on life for Portland’s elks club

Wow what a beautiful Lodge, I have to say, and I’ve been to all the lodges in Maine, that the Portland Lodge is one of the best!
— Darrell Gallant, visting Elks member, 33-year member of Skowhegan Madison Elks Lodge Number 2531
This was a tough one. Josh and the staff really had to keep their noses to the grindstone through many twists and turns, but they made it happen. This project definitely deserves its place in Northland’s Hall of Fame.
— Rex Bell, Founding Partner, Northland Enterprises

How 1945 Congress Street at the Gateway Office Park came to be

This is a story of rejuvenation --- and imagination. The local chapter of the Elks USA, Lodge #188, has been a part of Greater Portland, Maine for decades. Their lodge at 1945 Congress Street has always been a familiar sight to anyone leaving the Portland International Jetport (PWM) and heading east on Congress Street.

The Elks is a community service organization. What money they are able to raise through dues and fundraisers goes almost entirely into operations and charitable causes. It was not unexpected, therefore, that the organization faced a severe challenge when the inevitable aging of its building presented a tough predicament. Without adequate funds for maintenance and renovations, selling their well-known home in such a visible location was a real and distasteful possibility.

Fresh ideas, new life for the Elks

Northland devised a plan to buy a large portion of the property, but to renovate all of it. We recruited a major office tenant to anchor what is now known as 1945 Congress Street at the Gateway Office Park. The office park also includes a medical office building, and a brand new club building for Lodge #188 of the Elks USA. 

Significantly, none of the property owned by the Elks had ever generated tax revenue, since the organization is tax-exempt. Northland’s imaginative approach to redevelopment accomplished the following:

  1. Preserved the Elks’ ability to stay in their long-time home, now completely renovated, as an owner and still as a tax-exempt organization.

  2. Converted the majority of the property into a commercial campus park with Class A finishes and modern amenities, which now generates significant tax revenue for the City of Portland.

  3. Created a visible and modern flagship headquarters for Clark Insurance, one of Maine’s most respected companies.

  4. Completed a total makeover of a property situated at a major gateway into the City of Portland, along one of its major arteries.

  5. Prevented the demolition of an important piece of Portland’s history and, instead, found a solution in which all parties find their circumstances significantly improved.

The process from initial conceptualization, through negotiation with the Elks, through the planning board approvals, through construction and finally through occupancy by the new tenants, took more than four years. But it was worth it, and that’s why this is one of our Signature Projects. At Northland, we seek the highest and best use for a property when we review it for possible redevelopment. That sometimes requires a lot of imagination, and 1945 Congress at the Gateway Office Park is a prime example.

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From afar out on Congress Street, the old Elks lodge didn’t look too bad to passers-by. Up close and personal, the building was in major disrepair and needed significant renovation.