AUGUSTA — For several years, the buildings at 265 and 269 Western Ave. have stood indifferently empty as traffic whizzed westward and to points north and south on Interstate 95.

Now plans are underway to revitalize both of the properties, and when they are done they will join the growing list of businesses with new facilities or new addresses on the busy commercial corridor.

In August, the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce announced its purchase of the former Unicel building at 265 Western Ave. If the renovation plan remains on schedule, chamber employees will move in by the end of the year.

“Being a regional chamber, we want to be inclusive of the all the surrounding towns,” chamber President and CEO Ross Cunningham said. “And we felt that Western Avenue and that property were in need of a boost. By using that location, we’re helping the corridor and boosting our own visibility.”

The high traffic count also drew the attention of Spenser Ouelette, a Caribou-based restaurant owner, who spied the former Big Apple at 269 Western Ave. when he was looking for a location for Pizza Degree.

“It’ll be the last restaurant before you hit the interstate,” Ouelette said. In 2012, he bought Burger Boy in Caribou and had been looking for a location to open another restaurant. Family ties drew him to Augusta, and he bought the property at a good price. The location is prime, and he wants to capitalize on the heavy outbound traffic by offering custom-order pizzas that are ready in three and a half minutes.


He said he also expects to be open by December.

Since the beginning of the year, projects big and small have been making their way through the city’s approval process, including an expansion at O’Reilly Auto Parts at the east end of Western Avenue and an upgrade of facilities at Darling’s Auto at 439 Western Ave. Darling’s officials celebrated breaking ground on their new project Friday. Also in the works is a Fast Eddie’s Express, a car wash now under construction at the corner of Western Avenue and Pet Haven Lane, the former site of a Chinese restaurant.

Among the other businesses new to the avenue are Dreams Bridal Boutique & Tuxedo Center in the Augusta Plaza, which opened its doors last week; and Starbucks at Augusta Crossing, which will open its doors with a ribbon cutting on Oct. 15.

Those headed west toward Manchester also will notice a new 25,580-square-foot Homewood Suites hotel under construction.

Cunningham is counting on the traffic volume to deliver people to the visitor’s center he has planned for the chamber building.

“We like the location and the high traffic count,” he said. “We want to get the message out about Augusta.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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