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Historic Union Wharf in Portland to be sold to Gulf of Maine Research Institute

The GMRI plans to help preserve Union Wharf and the important role it has on Portland's working waterfront

PORTLAND, Maine — Union Wharf is a staple of Portland's working waterfront and has been for generations. Soon, the wharf will be under new ownership, but those taking over the important area for Maine's maritime community said they want to help preserve it. 

"It's a really precious wharf and it's the center of this waterfront," Don Perkins, president & CEO of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, said. 

It was announced Monday that GMRI had reached a purchase agreement with the Poole Family, which has owned the wharf for about 160 years.

"When it went up for sale, we couldn't find anybody who was working to acquire it from within the maritime community, and for that reason, we decided to step in and protect it," Perkins said. 

   

According to outgoing co-owner of Union Wharf Charlie Poole, ownership of the wharf has stayed in the family for years and is now owned by members of his generation and 15 grandchildren. 

"We’re at that point that trying to be fair to the family they have ownership that deserves to be bought out. The only way we can really buy them out is to create some capital," Poole said.

He said they wanted to find a buyer who would work to preserve the integrity of the wharf, and continue on with its rich and important marine industry heritage.

"The single most important thing to us was stewardship, and who was going to carry the baton on after us to continue to work with the various marine interests," said Poole.

Leaders with GMRI said they plan to help preserve and protect that area of Maine's working waterfront.

"First to protect that wharf as a working wharf, and secondly to steward it as a highly functional, well-maintained work platform for companies that work on the water," Perkins said.

"Our vision is for Union Wharf to serve as a model for how coastal communities can continue to invest in and protect waterfront access. We will steward and manage Union Wharf over the long-term with the guidance of industry advisors," Perkins said.

Many businesses on the wharf say they're optimistic and excited about the new ownership. Liquid Riot Bottling Company is located right off the wharf with a perfect view of it. Head Distiller Ian Michaud says it's a big boost for business and he hopes things remain the way they are under new ownership.

"We really have a great view out here looking at the water. We get to see all of the fishermen working, getting off their boats, yeah, and we don't want that to change," Michaud said.

According to Perkins, the sale is expected to be finalized by the end of 2021. The price of the sale has not been disclosed.