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March 4, 2019

South Berwick property developers shift focus with Augusta residential buy

Courtesy / Remington Street Properties
Courtesy / Remington Street Properties
53 Water St. in Augusta is one of 19 properties South Berwick's Remington Street Properties recently bought in the Capital City.

The purchase of a large portfolio of residential buildings in Augusta is a move north by South Berwick property developers who recently have focused on the Portland area.

Real estate development company Remington Street Properties, owned by Jim and Rebecca Henry of South Berwick, bought 154 mostly residential units in 19 buildings from River City Realty, in Augusta, owned by Larry Fleury.

Remington Street bought the portfolio for $3 million, closing Feb. 8. Kevin Fletcher and Patrick Casalinova of Northeast Commercial Brokers at Keller Williams Realty represented the Henrys in the deal.

The Henrys are executives in the software technology industry as well as co-founders of Remington Street Properties. They said that the "up and coming" development scene in Augusta is indicative of Maine's entrepreneurial spirit.

Remington Street Properties has gone into high gear over the past four or five years. In June, the Henrys bought a six-unit multi-family property at 52 Myrtle St. in Portland. Two months later, they bought 138-140 Pine St., 21 Dow St. and 11 Carleton St., dating back to the 1900s and consisting of 23 multi-family units in Portland's West End.

They soon after sold 21 Dow St. for a profit of $144,000. Last month they sold 138-140 Pine St. for a profit of $240,000.They were represented in those transactions by Josh Soley and John Golden of Maine Realty Advisors.

Entrepreneurial appeal

34 Cedar St. is one of 19 buildings comprising 154 units purchased by Remington Street Properties for $3 million.

Jim Henry was born and raised in Maine, graduated from the University of Maine, and moved to Boston to pursue a career in software technology. Twenty years ago, he met Rebecca, who was working for the same company.

The pair invested in their first rental property in Cambridge, Mass., and found they enjoyed working together. That was the beginning of their side business, Remington Street Properties.

Today, in addition to the Augusta portfolio, they own 35 residential properties, ranging from large buildings with 20-plus units to one-unit condos, in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

When they started their family, they moved to southern Maine, where they live in South Berwick and continue to work in technology and invest in residential properties.

Jim Henry said it was appealing to return to his home state.

"I feel like Maine in recent years has really become entrepreneurial," he said. "I don't remember that from my childhood. There were a lot of mom-and-pops and a lot of small service businesses. But the entrepreneurial start-ups are really taking hold. So I feel there's a different vibe happening over the past decade. That's really special for a guy who grew up in Maine and loves the state, who moved out and then moved back to be part of Maine's growth."

Potential for growth

Proceeds from Remington's recent Portland sales helped finance purchase of the Augusta portfolio.

"We've been opportunistic in Portland," said Rebecca Henry. "Now we're moving from a known growth area to Augusta, which we feel is up and coming. We're shifting our investments where we saw a greater potential to growth."

"I feel like Augusta is a microcosm of that entrepreneurial spirit," Jim Henry said, citing as an example Tobias Parkhurst, president of O&P Glass in Augusta, as a catalyst of downtown Augusta development — buying and renovating three buildings, opening a brew pub with three partners. He also heads the nonprofit that's restoring the historic Colonial Theater, which is just a few lots away from 53 Water St.

Parkhurst is just one of several developers who have recently invested in downtown Augusta.

The 19 buildings Remington Properties bought are in and around downtown Augusta, on the city's west side. Their addresses are 37-39, 53, 375, 382 and 384 Water St.; 9, 17-19 and 21 Laurel St.; 26 and 30 North St.; 53, 78 and 80 Gage St.; 8, 12, 18 and 22 Bond St.; 16 Green St.; and 34 Cedar St.

"It's a very eclectic blend," said Jim Henry. Most are two- and three-family buildings, a large building with single-rooms-only and over 5,000 square feet of commercial space. Fleury, 57, recently told the Kennebec Journal he's semi-retiring, and the sale represents all but a half dozen of his properties, which he started acquiring in the early 1980s.

An example of the portfolio is 53 Water St., built in 1920 as mill housing for the nearby Edwards Mill. It was the Hotel Arnold for much of its life and now is Edwards House. It still has beautiful wood floors and trim. It has ample parking and plenty of potential for a variety of uses, the couple said. To that end, they've contacted the city and to some Augusta entrepreneurs for feedback on best uses for the space.

All of the buildings are nearly a century old or older. The Henrys credit seller Fleury for maintaining them in good condition.

"But any time you have a new owner, you have to opportunity to see things that people might not have seen before and bring it up to another level of love," said Jim Henry. "We plan to put a pretty significant amount money into them to enhance the look and livability of the buildings."

Rehab will likely include things like aesthetic upgrades, improved energy efficiencies and expansion opportunities in some of the buildings, the couple said.

Vacancy of the buildings is fairly low. The mix includes low-income and market-rate rentals. The goal is to bring all of the units up to market-rate quality without displacing current residents, they said.

The Henrys have engaged Central Maine Property Management in Lewiston to provide on-site management.

"We're working with them to put together a plan for how to best upgrade the space," said Jim Henry. "It's a large swath of units. We want to see where we can make something that's little bit older look newer."

The Henrys credit Andy Pease at TD Bank for his help transacting the deal.

"Something of this size and scope is not easy," said Henry. "Andy was diligent in helping us get it done."

Overall, said Henry, "We're hoping to help the economic boost that Maine is experiencing and be part of it for years to come."

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