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Augusta, developer partner on 'addition by subtraction'

BY Maureen Milliken

6/27/2018
Photo / Maureen MIlliken
Photo / Maureen MIlliken
The house at 115 Bridge St. in Augusta was refurbished after an RFP by the city sought a developer for it.

AUGUSTA — The city took advantage of a bad situation — two distressed residences on upper Bridge Street — and with the help of a local developer made it a plus.
“It was addition by subtraction,” said Keith Luke, the city’s deputy director of development services.
Development group LaRochelle PM LLC, of Augusta, is holding an open house today [Thursday, June 28] at 115 Bridge St., the result of a response five months ago to a city request for proposals. The city sought bidders to take over the house as well as a duplex at 117 Bridge St., demolish one and renovate the other.
Interior designer Lori LaRochelle, with partners Derrick White and Tarsha Cote were the winners of two bidders on the project, buying the property for $20,000.
The city bought the Craftsman-style 1,660-square-foot three-bedroom house at 115 Bridge St. in June 2017, for $21,100 after it had acquired 117 Bridge St. in a tax foreclosure earlier that year.
City Manager William Bridgeo “saw an opportunity,” Luke said.
The houses in the neighborhood are on small lots and the two were at a dead-end, which made parking difficult and made the property difficult to rent or sell. Both were distressed.
“There are few instances in a city that generally speaking would be very reluctant to remove [housing] units, to do something like this, but in this instance, it seemed as though it would benefit the neighborhood,” Luke said Tuesday.
LaRochelle PM paid $20,000 for the house and the Colonial-style duplex next door, demolishing the duplex. A portion of the lot, which is too small to build on, is being sold to the neighbors on the other side for parking and a portion will be part of the 115 Bridge St. property.
The remaining house was painted, got a new roof, new landscaping, updating heating, kitchen, and some bathroom updates, new windows and plaster and paint fixes.
LaRochelle, who has been owner of LaRochelle Interiors LLC since 2008, was project manager and designer. Her interior design firm does both interior and commercial designs, as well as project management.
Photos of the property before the remodel show drab brown paint, peeling trim and plastic-covered windows. A Zillow listing shows a price drop from $63,600 to $34,900 between December 2016 and April 2017.
The house now is a sage green, with shining white trim and new windows.
While LaRochelle couldn’t be reached immediately for comment, her proposal to the city said the house would have a maximum value of $140,000 once the renovations were complete.
Luke said that it was a first for the city, and while it was a unique situation, if a similar one arises, the city may contemplate doing it again.
He said the renovation is important beyond simply upgrading a distressed house in a city with a tight market.
“It helps increase property values, neighborhood pride,” he said. He said seeing the successful renovation may be a motivator to other developers.
“Just one house has made a difference,” he said.