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May 27, 2020

Insider Notebook: Developer plans to convert Augusta office building to senior apartments

Photo / Maureen Milliken Developer Jim Pepin is seeking a contract zone so he can develop 99 Western Ave. in Augusta, which he bought in December, into 53 senior apartments.

Developer Jim Pepin on June 9 will go to the Augusta Planning Board for a rezoning necessary to turn a former office building that was the University of Maine at Augusta's first home into senior housing.

He's seeking approval for contract zoning that will allow 53 senior residential units on the site, at 99 Western Ave. Pepin bought the 25,000-square-foot building from Joe Cooper in December for $100,000. The June 9 planning board session is a public hearing on the request.

The 1.12-acre lot has 40 parking spaces, and two smaller residential buildings at the back of the lot, which is behind the building, off Pike Street. The property spans a local business district and medium residential density district, making the contract zone necessary.

The building has been vacant for years and is made up of a number of architectural styles, cobbled together. Pepin told Mainebiz in December it's definitely an eyesore — "Think of the world's largest haunted house" — but location, good bones and the need for that type of housing in Augusta made it an appealing transaction.

The building is on the city's main commercial drag, which stretches from Exit 109 of Interstate 95 into the city's core, with historic residential areas behind it. 

The oldest portion was built in 1910, and no one's really sure about its initial use, but speculate it was a large single-family home. In 1967, it briefly became the home of the newly established University of Maine at Augusta. After UMA moved to its own campus in north Augusta in the early 1970s, it was an office building. It was vacant for several years before Pepin bought it.

Second round of Fairfield facade grants

The town of Fairfield has launched the second round of its Façade Improvement & Marketing Assistance Program grants. Funding is available for Fairfield-based businesses and entrepreneurs that seek to improve their building or marketing, while adding to the Somerset County town's economic development.

Operated by the Fairfield Economic and Community Development Committee, the program allocates financial incentives for the renovation, restoration, and preservation of privately owned business exteriors, as for marketing assistance to stimulate commerce.

Grants will reimburse up to 50% of the cost of façade improvement and marketing projects. The grants range from $3,000 to $25,000 in funding. The money comes from tax increment financing revenues.

In its first year, grants went to Belanger’s Drive-In, IBEW 1253, Meridians Kitchen & Bar and Sunset Flowerland & Greenhouse.

"These awarded projects have significantly contributed to Fairfield’s aesthetics and commerce, and the town intends to continue to leverage its historical and commercial assets with FIMAP’s second grant cycle," a news release announcing the grant cycle said.

Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development at Central Maine Growth Council said the program and those like it, which helps drive other economic development, are especially important during the COVID-19 crisis.

"The continued investment in the Town of Fairfield and its downtown is having a tangible impact on quality of place, which attracts investment, residents and visitors," he said in the release. "These new layers of investment will assist in sustaining and propelling the town’s growth forward more quickly, with visible impact.”

Successful proposals will generate significant economic and community development impact.

Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said, “Understanding the increased need to deploy capital into businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FECDC Advisory Committee will prioritize projects that strongly contribute to the revitalization of our business community, to the restoration of our historic resources and to job creation and retention."

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