AUGUSTA — The site of the demolished Kennebec Journal building on Western Avenue is set to be home to a Men’s Wearhouse store, the national retailer’s first Maine store north of South Portland.
The men’s clothing store will share an 11,000-square-foot building with U.S. Cellular, an unnamed retailer and an unnamed restaurant, according to Augusta city staffers.
The construction of the four-unit building, which has a clock tower featuring the building’s name, “Journal Square,” in sketches filed with the city, is the second phase in the development of the 5.28-acre property that was the home to the Capitol-area newspaper for 50 years. Both Bangor Savings Bank and Goodwill Industries of Northern New England already opened in new buildings on the property within the last 14 months.
The Portland-based developer, Sweetwater Partners LLC, bought the property from MaineToday Media Augusta Properties LLC in 2011 for $1.1 million, according to city records. MaineToday Media owns the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and the Portland Press Herald.
The Augusta Planning Board approved an amended proposal for the development last fall after approving the initial proposal in 2011. The first proposal called for a 6,000-square-foot building behind the Irving gas station on Western Avenue and a 5,000-square-foot retail building along Crossing Way.
The store will fill a void in central Maine, said Peter Thompson, president and CEO of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, because there hasn’t been a men’s clothing store in Kennebec County since Levine’s in Waterville closed in the 1990s. He said he and others in the area have to travel to at least Freeport, 40 miles south of Augusta, to buy suits, slacks and other dress clothes from a menswear store.
“It’s positive news for new jobs, new growth, new opportunities for shoppers,” Thompson said. “It’s another good step toward a more comprehensive shopping experience in the Augusta city and area.”
Matt Nazar, director of development services for the city, said he suspects the retailer will do well because it’s the only men’s clothing store in the area.
He said the city doesn’t yet know what will be going into the other two units. The city staff probably will find out when the developer submits permit requests for interior work or signage, he said.
Thompson said he would like something unique that people can get excited about to move into the building, but he didn’t have any specific ideas.
“What is new and cool would be great,” he said.
Sweetwater Partners LLC was formed by Northland Enterprise LLC, also based in Portland, to own and operate the development, according to documents filed with the city. Northland Enterprise LLC has worked on historical restoration projects in the past, including Baxter Library, now home to the VIA Agency, a Portland advertising firm.
Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, is one of the four executives at Sweetwater Partners LLC, along with Rex Bell, Joshua Benthien and Michael Sweeney, according to paperwork filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Representative for Sweetwater Partners LLC and Men’s Wearhouse didn’t respond to requests for comment.