Construction of what will become the state’s tallest building is about to begin in downtown Portland.

Crews Thursday finished installing a massive 250-foot-tall tower crane on the building site at 200 Federal St. The crane, which will remain in place for about 11 months, is on a lot at Temple and Federal streets.

The crane will play a pivotal role in construction of an 18-story apartment building on the site, lifting steel beams and joists into place, according to Jonathan Culley, a managing partner with Redfern Properties.

Redfern will develop the site, a few feet from One City Center and behind the post office on Congress Street. The $70 million project has not been named yet, Culley said.

“We are well underway,” Culley said Thursday in a telephone interview. Crews spent the past several months preparing the building’s foundation and connecting to underground utilities. Now, with the crane in place, vertical construction is scheduled to begin in late February, Culley said. Scarborough-based Landry/French Construction is the project’s general contractor.

Getting the crane into position was no easy task. A smaller crane had to be moved onto the site Monday, which was then used to assemble the tower crane provided by Mainely Construction Rentals of Freeport. Rebecca Lizotte, a partner in Mainely Construction Rentals, said the tower crane, which weighs over 1 million pounds, will remain onsite for about 11 months.

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The crane operator must climb a 250-foot ladder each day to reach the operator’s cab at the top of the crane, after completing a one-hour inspection of the machinery each morning.

The housing development project, approved by the Portland Planning Board in May, required a zoning change by the City Council because existing rules didn’t allow housing units taller than 14 floors, or 150 feet. The development is geared toward middle-market rentals.

Workers scale the ladder of a crane at the construction site at the intersection of Federal and Temple streets. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Once completed, the 190-foot tall building will be the tallest in the state, surpassing Portland’s Franklin Towers by 15 feet. One City Center, which is across Temple Street from the site, is 13 stories or about 140 feet tall. There are a few church spires and rooftop towers in Maine that are taller, including the 200-foot spire atop the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

“For us, it’s not about the height of the building,” Culley said. “We’re focused on building quality apartments that will have amazing views of Casco Bay.”

Of the building’s 263 units, 116 will be studios, 144 are one-bedrooms, and three units will be two-bedrooms. Rents are expected to range from $1,300 to $2,000 a month, and apartments should be ready for occupancy by late summer 2023 or fall 2023.

The new high-rise will occupy what is now a plaza and parking lot behind the post office at 400 Congress St., near City Hall. It will include some street-level retail space and a small “pocket park” with a water feature, while preserving some parking for the post office.

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