WATERVILLE — A real estate agent bought the Al Corey Music Center building Monday morning for about a quarter of its assessed value and says he plans to renovate it for business and residential use.
Will Guerrette bought the building on 99 Main St. for $55,000 during an open auction, a price well below the assessed value of about $219,000.
The building, next to Jorgensen’s Cafe and a few doors from City Hall is considered to be at a prime location.
And Guerrette, 29, who operates Two Cities LLC out of Augusta, said the price tag is actually a lot higher than $55,000.
“The priority will be to put some lipstick on the first floor and rent it out,” he said after Monday’s auction. “That will pay the bills and the long-term plan is to make the upstairs into apartments.
“I ran the numbers and it will cost a lot to renovate. We didn’t really buy it for $55,000. It’s going to cost a lot of money.”
The original business, Al Corey’s Music Center, was named after Al Corey, a musician who performed classic swing music in Maine for more than a half-century before he died in 2003 at 86 years old. Corey, whose real name was Elias J. Corey, started El Corey’s Big Bang in 1946, but the audience at his first show called him Al, and the name stuck.
At its peak, the music store featured an inventory of a variety of instruments, and the storefront was filled with pianos, guitars, percussion and wind instruments. The building has been vacant since May 2010.
Guerrette hopes to have the business space rented out as soon as it’s cleaned up, and said if all goes well, the renovations on upstairs apartments would start toward the end of the year.
The first floor — about 4,000 square feet of space with several storage rooms and small office — has pieces of old musical instruments lying around along with leftover leaflets scattered on the ground.
Guerrette is hoping to find a tenant for the business space that will add to the heart of the downtown Waterville area. It is at a prime location right next to Jorgensen’s Cafe.
“Having been involved with downtown revitalization, I’d like to get a tenant that would contribute to the community, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Guerrette said.
The property’s location coupled with its history, means that new activity at the building can help energize that area of Main Street, said Kimberly Lindlof, president of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.
“Particularly when it used to be such a vibrant business, we hope that whomever purchases it will create a renewed sense of vibrancy,” she said.
The idea of a mixed-use building sounded good to Lindlof, who said the downtown area could use more living space.
“It’s critical for a lively area to have living space,” she said. “There is some between the Hathaway house and some scattered places, but there aren’t enough.”
The potential for more living space is a welcomed addition for Waterville Main Street, the nonprofit group that helps support and invigorate the downtown region.
“The use of the upper story for residential living would be awesome,” said Jennifer Olsen, executive director for Waterville Main Street. “People living and working in downtown keeps the area alive.”
Guerrette said he is interested in the brick storage building behind the property, which was foreclosed by the city and is considered a separate property.
“I’m really curious what the city wants for that back building,” he said.
Steph Keenen, of Keenen Auction Company, was in charge of the sale, which took about 15 minutes to complete Monday. Along with Guerrette, another family was interested in buying the property, but decided against topping the $55,000 mark. The property has about $9,000 of back-taxes owed to the city.
Guerette’s uncle, Glen Guerette, manages Guerrette Properties in Augusta. Guerrette and his uncle are in the process of renovating a 100,000-square-foot space on Water Street, turning it into nine loft-style apartments with a rooftop terrace overlooking the Kennebec River.