AUGUSTA — The end of June will bring an end to the construction project at the Darling’s Auto Group dealership on Western Avenue, but it won’t bring an end to the work.

That’s because when Darling’s employees move into the new, larger building that will house the Hyundai and Chrysler Dodge Ram franchises and an expanded service area, the building they currently occupy will be demolished and the site will be converted into a parking area.

The project, which is expected to cost more than $5 million, will allow a couple of new things to happen at the facility, Lance Quinn, Darling’s general manager in Augusta, said.

“We really focused on listening to our customers,” Quinn said. The expansion upgrades its service area by increasing the number of service bays it operates from eight to 16, offering drive-in service and providing amenities for customers while they wait, like Wi-Fi and a refreshment bar. The expanded service bay is expected to shorten the time that customers have to wait to schedule service appointments, he said.

“Sometimes the wait is two weeks,” Quinn said.

The expanded service space will allow Darling’s to become a Business Choice Dealer, Quinn said, which means it can sell and service heavy-duty trucks.

“Our current building isn’t high enough to put the big trucks up on the lift,” he said.

The project frees up space at the Collision Center that will be home to an accessories superstore. That way, Quinn said, customers can shop for accessories to outfit their new cars.

On the building’s second floor, Quinn said, is a function room with a kitchen that Darling’s can make available to non-profit groups looking for meeting space.

The new space will use energy-efficient LED lights, and the building will be heated with furnaces fueled by waste oil.

The move comes at a time when the median household income has been on the rise in Augusta, according to U.S. Census data. Between 2000 and 2015, it has gone from just under $30,000 to nearly $39,000.

The scale of the investment signals confidence in the Augusta community, Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ross Cunningham said.

“I am thrilled that Darling’s has chosen to make this significant investment in our community,” he said. “It is not only evidence of their strong business growth, but also demonstrates their belief in the future of the greater Augusta region. As we see new development and continued growth throughout the business community in the Kennebec valley, we see a corresponding interest in folks coming to our great communities to live, work and play.”

The proposal for the construction project was first aired at an Augusta Planning Board meeting in August. Company officials broke ground on the project near the corner of Old Winthrop Road and Western Avenue in early October.

The dealership currently employs 52. Quinn said additional workers are expected to be hired to staff the expanded facility, and they will be added as demand dictates.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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