Aura, a 24,000 SF concert and event venue in downtown Portland, received a MEREDA Top 10 Notable Project Award at MEREDA’s 2018 Annual Spring Conference in May.
MEREDA, the Maine Real Estate and Development Association, selects Maine’s Top 10 Notable Projects each year. Selection criteria include the project’s significance, environmental sustainability, economic impact, difficulty of development, energy efficiency, job creation, and uniqueness.
Aura, owned and developed by Tedlum Associates, is the transformation of a 1960s-era nightclub into a sophisticated, high-tech performance venue in the heart of downtown Portland, Maine. The $10 million project was designed by WBRC Architects Engineers and built by Consigli Construction and opened for business in April 2016.
Background: After nearly 20 years in business, Aura’s owners wished to expand and modernize its iconic entertainment venue, formerly known as Asylum. This “labor of love” presented many logistical challenges, including a tight urban footprint in a historic district, and the need to fast-track the project to keep staff employed during construction.
A key project objective was to increase audience capacity. To accomplish this, the existing 15,000 SF building was expanded to 24,000 SF by adding 2.5 stories to the main event space, accommodating a new balcony level. The owners also wished to expand the facility’s appeal for special events. Additions such as two multi-purpose pre-function areas, as well as renovations to the existing sports bar and dance club, make Aura an exciting option for meetings and celebrations.
Aura’s new exterior design grounds the building in traditional masonry and contrasts it with a modern form above. A multi-story curtainwall creates an aperture into the main event space, with additional dazzle from accent lights and color-changeable signage. Inside, design choices across the venue, from floor to ceiling, seating to signage, all work together to help fulfill Aura’s mission: To bring its guests a high-quality user experience and an unmistakable sense of “wow.”
To improve the sightlines, the stage was raised four feet and a horseshoe-shaped balcony was added to the upper level. Performer amenities include a new loading dock and lift and VIP suite with a separate entrance.
Performance technology is also a major differentiator at Aura. The venue now offers regional audiences state-of-the-art audio, lighting, and video technology, achieved with remarkably little sound emission, through carefully-designed acoustical wall construction, panels, and glazing.
Energy efficiency increased significantly at Aura by improving the existing envelope and adding new HVAC systems. The building envelope exceeds the energy code insulation values and utilizes high-performance glazing. Other green design choices include LED lighting throughout, low VOC finishes, zoned heating, and automation of major building systems.
Prior to Aura’s renovation and expansion, not all areas of the venue were accessible and ADA seating options were less than ideal. Aura is now completely accessible, starting with ground-level entrances and continuing inside to seating, counters, restrooms, and a six-stop elevator.
The economic ripple effect of each Aura concert is significant. Direct, indirect and induced purchases including transportation, parking, food, lodging, and additional staff wages all contribute to the positive economic impact of the project. Aura now employs 35-40 professionals serving the company in talent booking, technical support, food and bar service, accounting, and maintenance.
Project Team: Owners: Tedlum Associates; Design: WBRC Architects Engineers; Construction: Consigli; Brand Consultants: Blaze Partners