The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine will receive a significant infusion of federal funds to develop a site in Portland where it plans to build a new facility, a move that means the downtown landmark in Portland’s arts district must be sold.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the Children’s Museum has been awarded a $500,000 Brownfields Grant to clean up hazardous materials from a 1.12-acre parcel at Thompson’s Point in Portland.

The site was originally used as a rail yard for the Maine Central Railroad in the late 1800s and later housed a variety of industrial and commercial buildings. The site is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCBs, arsenic and metals commingled with residual petroleum contamination, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Children’s Museum was one of 14 sites throughout Maine that were chosen by the EPA to share in a $6 million allocation to Maine – more funding than any other state in the nation. The Maine Port Authority in Portland and the Portland Housing Authority were among the recipients, and each will receive a $500,000 grant.

“The museum is the recipient of a $500,000 brownfield remediation grant, and we’re thrilled,” said Suzanne Olson, the museum’s executive director. “The EPA grant and other brownfield support from the City of Portland and Greater Portland Council of Governments will help us convert the post-industrial site into a healthy, vital space for children and families to learn and play together.”

Olson, who is retiring from the museum this month, said in an email that the federal funds will allow the museum to transform the former industrial site “into an amazing place for people of all ages.”


Olson also said that the museum is approaching its fundraising benchmark, which will allow it to start construction, and hopes to have a new museum and theater open to the public sometime in 2020. Olson did not specify how much money has been raised so far, but the museum’s fundraising goal is $14 million. She also could not be more specific about exactly when in 2020 the museum at Thompson’s Point would be open to the public.

The museum’s deputy director, Lucia Stancioff, said the existing museum at 142 Free St. in downtown Portland has been put on the market.

According to a listing posted by The Dunham Group, the museum – located next to the Portland Museum of Art – is being offered for $2.7 million. Zoning would allow for office, residential, lodging, retail, restaurant or religious assembly uses. The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine moved into the space in 1993.

Stancioff said the new museum will be a three-story, 30,000-square-foot structure with special features, including a 100-seat theater and an aquatic exhibition with marine life touch tanks. The site will also have a garden, picnic area, and climbing structure.

The new museum is being designed by Bruner/Cott, an architectural firm based in Boston.

The Portland Planning Board in 2017 unanimously approved a site plan permit that will allow the museum to move into a new building at Thompson’s Point, a mixed-use development off outer Congress Street on a peninsula that juts out into the Fore River.


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