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Augusta's first shopping center repositions for new era

BY Maureen Milliken

7/25/2018
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Augusta Plaza, the city's first shopping center, is in a good location to reposition itself for service use, broker Erik Urbanek says.

AUGUSTA — The city’s first shopping mall, which ushered in a new era when it was built, is now positioned for the next era as that retail model fades and the heart of the Capital City redevelops.
Augusta Plaza, at 50-60 Western Ave., still anchored by a Kmart department store, is moving away from the commercial center it was conceived as, said Erik Urbanek, of SVN | The Urbanek Group, the leasing agent for Augusta Plaza Associates LLC.
“We’re looking forward to repositioning that property for more service-oriented users,” Urbanek said Wednesday.
The newest tenant is Coastal Trading & Pawn, formerly Augusta Pawn and Jewelry, which has relocated from 343 Water St. The shop, doing business as LPS Inc., is leasing 3,295 square feet in the east wing of the mall.
The shop's space is adjacent to Fastenal, a tool and fastener distributor. On the other side of Fastenal is a laundromat, and a few units in the other direction is a U.S. Army recruiting office.
The plaza, which also has detached space, including Friendly’s and a three-bay space that houses Little Caesar’s, UPS Store and Miracle Ear, is also a block away from the 104,000-square-foot state office building under construction on Capitol Street at the former Department of Transportation site.
Urbanek said the location is not only close to the State House and state offices, but is on Western Avenue, a main east-west route from Interstate 95.
“We’re encouraged by the new development happening in the vicinity and encouraged by the resurgence Water Street street is going through,” Urbanek said.
Water Street, the city’s downtown, is about half a mile from the Western Avenue site, and has seen an uptick in residential and retail use in the past two years.

Augusta Plaza was built 57 years ago on the former Haynes estate on what was then a residential thoroughfare. The site is in the heart of the city, across the street from St. Mary’s church and what was once the city’s A&P supermarket. The supermarket location is now a U-Haul rental center.
The new plaza paved the way for Capital Shopping Center, now Shaw’s Plaza, which opened half a mile west in 1966, and the Turnpike Mall at Exit 109 of Interstate 95, which opened in 1969.
Augusta Plaza, when it opened, “inaugurated major commercial development on Western Avenue,” according to a Kennebec Historical Society timeline.
The first anchor tenant at Augusta Plaza was W.T. Grant, which later made way for Kmart. Over the years, other retail staples, such as LaVerdiere’s drug store, Radio Shack and Fashion Bug were also tenants.
Three years after Augusta Plaza opened, the post office and seven-story federal building, now the Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building, opened next door.
Urbanek said there is still vacant space in the main building of the mall, including 13,000 square feet vacated by Goodwill Industries, which moved to Journal Square, farther west on Western Avenue, and about 6,500 square feet that had been a Chapter 11 store. The former Radio Shack space, in a separate building next to Joe’s Smoke Shop, is also available.
Above Kmart, there’s also about 7,000 square feet of office space, with entrances on Amherst Street.
Urbanek said that the owner of the former Augusta Pawn and Jewelry wanted to maintain an Augusta location and is “getting established in a new location and forward to being able to expand in the future.”