India Street was established in 1680 as one of the first streets in Portland. From 1903 to 1966, Grand Trunk Station sat at its terminus, where the Grand Trunk rail line brought passengers and goods from Montreal to Maine’s ice-free seaports. As passenger rail-service declined, most of the Grand Trunk infrastructure was razed in 1966. The office building at the junction of India and Commercial Street was left standing to continue housing the Grand Trunk offices until the mid-1980’s, when it too was eventually abandoned. The building is now home to Gorham Savings Bank, who used historic tax credits to restore the structure to its former stateliness.
On the adjacent site, which lay fallow for decades, we had the privilege of designing a new multi-family residential building as part of the city’s redevelopment plan.
5 India Street introduces 24 units of high-performance housing to a historic waterfront site. The building gracefully brings the best of historic Portland forward into the new century with a simple form and heritage materials that complement the last standing relic of the Grand Trunk.
Black bricks at the ground floor offer a contemporary interpretation of the city’s iconic masonry. Another traditional Maine material, slate shingles, button up the upper levels in a durable, lightweight jacket hung from the building via a rainscreen clip system. In a subtle nod to the property’s locomotive roots, custom-milled panels between the windows feature powder-coated aluminum engraved to emulate the wheel spokes of the trains that once passed through the site. Subject to Portland’s Form Based Code – which heavily limits building form and location – and review by the Historic Preservation Board, the project was approved rapidly with praise for looking like a “well tailored suit”.
Careful consideration of the neighborhood’s existing scale and proportions ensured the new building would harmonize with its site. Though Five India spans four stories and its historic counterpart – the Grand Trunk building housing Gorham Savings Bank – only includes three, both stand at the same height.
The project has a predicted overall energy use of only 23% of a typical apartment building without renewable energy systems. Half of the roof, however, is designed and ready to accommodate future installation of a solar array. The entire building uses low embodied energy, carbon sequestering materials, including wood framing and dense-packed cellulose insulation.