AUGUSTA — Several downtown building owners are reaching into the past to create a more colorful, bold future.
The brightly hued transformation taking place on the exterior walls of several previously bland old buildings is hard to miss on Water Street — resplendent today in blue, red, green and orange.
Multiple downtown building owners painting their walls in bold but historic colors at approximately the same time didn’t happen by accident.
Though it wasn’t exactly something any of them had planned, either, until they coordinated their paint jobs with each other through the Augusta Downtown Alliance, a group of advocates for the city’s downtown.
“They were all getting ready to paint, anyway. But for the most part, they were all going to just paint them white,” said Larry Fleury, president of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.
“I think the colors are great,” he said. “It’s time for a change downtown. A breath of fresh air that shows something is happening.”
Things are certainly happening in the Parkhursts’ downtown buildings: Richard and Janet Parkhurst’s buildings are under major renovations at 228 Water St.; just a bit farther down the one-way street, their son, Toebee, has been improving 204 Water St., where the Downtown Diner has drawn large crowds since it opened this summer.
The younger Parkhurst’s brick building is now a glowing deep red with green trim framing a prominent sign from days gone by — the original stained glass sign for Hersey’s Shoe Store.
One of Richard and Janet Parkhurst’s buildings is halfway through a bright blue paint job, with tan and blue trim detailing.
“I’m thrilled,” Richard Parkhurst said of the bold blue paint job at 228 Water St. “We’ve been getting a lot of comments, most of them positive.
“It looks good and I’m on board with anything that is done cooperatively among building owners,” Parkhurst said. “That hasn’t happened enough in the past. Things were stagnant.
“I think this is the kind of thing that has to happen. If owners can start working together, I’m certain we can attract people down there.”
Some already have, or are about to, come downtown.
The United Way of Kennebec Valley moved its headquarters into 228 Water St., earlier this year.
And the owners of the former Winthrop Mineral Shop will be moving into retail space in the building soon, to open a gem and jewelry shop, Parkhurst said.
After learning various downtown building owners were poised to paint their buildings, Fleury spoke with Roxanne Elfin at the Maine Downtown Center and hatched a plan to coordinate the paint jobs — not so they’d all be the same, but rather so they’d each be different, and complementary.
Fleury and others met with Phyllis vonHerrlich, a local historic preservation advocate and member of the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s Design Committee, to talk about colors.
“She had paint charts, and gave us a good overview of colors, historic colors,” Fleury said. “We picked historic New England colors.”
Those include the green and orange Ed Quirion painted his adjacent buildings at 208 and 206 Water St.
At 188 Water St., building owner Diane Wagner plans to have her white building — home to W.B. Mason office supply — painted gold with white trim in the spring. She also plans to have a new awning put on the building.
“It’s a combined effort. We got together so we don’t all have the same colors,” Wagner said. “This is good. I think we’ve got some new blood down there, new life.”
Another downtown building owner, Glenn Guerette, has agreed to paint his building in the coordinated color theme, as well, Fleury said, though work there hasn’t started.
Fleury credited Jesse Patkus, who recently bought a downtown building himself and is a student in the University of Maine at Augusta’s architecture program, for putting renderings of the downtown buildings on a computer with their proposed new paint jobs.
That way, Fleury said, everyone could see what they were in for with their new paint jobs. The mockup of the buildings in their new colors is on the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s Facebook page.
Fleury said there seems to be growing interest among young people in coming downtown, and said the vibrant new paint scheme is symbolic of that change.
“With the down economy, we’re repositioning ourselves,” he said. “We’re trying to put all the little things together. And this painting is helping to lend a new feeling down there.”
Keith Edwards — 621-5647