AUGUSTA — Richard Parkhurst’s life is a study in numbers.

Parkhurst was up at 3 a.m. Monday to start his workday on his project, renovation of the 35,000-square-foot Water Street building he bought 12 months ago for $160,000 in downtown Augusta. The demolition is 97 percent complete; the framing is 60 percent complete.

There will be one elevator and two staircases at 275-287 Water St. granting access to the 12 apartments on the upper floors. The apartments feature three different styles of windows — standard, arched and eyebrow — in keeping with the building’s historic character, and the historic trim has been replicated. Eight of the apartments will have Kennebec River views and decks. Two commercial spaces will occupy the ground floor on Water Street and a third will occupy the level just below the one facing the river.

He’s spending about $20,000 a day so that in about 90 days, give or take, the building will be fully leased and people will be moving in.

“I’m here just about every day,” he said. Those days are filled with conversations, consultations, scheduling and decisions, juggling the needs of electricians, spray foam installers, drywall deliveries, framers, carpenters, inspectors and, from time to time, curious people.

The goal always has been clear to Parkhurst, but the path has been less so.


He knew going in that both the roof and the building’s sprinkler system would require immediate attention. The prior owner’s failure to fix the electrical and sprinkler systems prompted city code officials to shut down the three ground-floor businesses in August 2015 and ban the public from entering the businesses.

Now, nearly a year later, with the building stripped of layers of the renovations and additions of 15 decades of occupancy, the wet smell of disuse and neglect is gone, replaced by the scent of new drywall with a hint of sawdust.

The apartments have been framed out and the spray insulation is sealing up the building envelope against the cold. Floors and ceilings have been made level; and on every level, it seems, someone is doing something.

“I have a big crew,” he said. “That’s how you make it happen.”

There are, Keith Luke said, varying degrees of heroism in redevelopment efforts. Augusta’s deputy director of development services, who is responsible for the city’s economic development, said the building was shut down and its code compliance was as low as it could possibly be.

“You could go to the top floor, where you could see the sky,” Luke said. “There were a number of weeks where we were having meetings about that building and the threat the owner was going to discontinue the sprinkler system because he could not or would not afford it. The city was close to taking possession of it in some way.”


Parkhurst, he said, is a developer whom any community would welcome.

“That’s the basis on which the city was willing to extend a tax increment financing plan,” he said.

Parkhurst sought and received a TIF that would give him $320,000 over a 15-year period and the city would receive $640,000 over a 30-year period through a mechanism that allows municipalities, during the term of the TIF district, to avoid the reduction in state aid to education, and other negative tax effects, if property taxes generated by new development weren’t so sheltered and directed for a specific use.

“We were aware how bad it was and we knew the future of the building was not good until Richard Parkhurst stepped into the picture,” he said.

Parkhurst’s investment is key because it’s creating value through the market-rate apartments on the upper floors and the improved retail spaces, Luke said, and it dovetails with other investments being made in downtown Augusta. “It’s important from one end of Water Street to the other,” he said. “The commitment to develop Water Street and downtown Augusta is as strong or stronger than any other community in Maine.”

Parkhurst had wanted a restaurant in his building, and he’ll have one. Otto’s on the River, had announced plans to open late last spring in the former Gagliano’s Italian Bistro site. Otto’s will open by the end of the year in an expanded space.


“The renovation of an old building is like that,” restaurant owner Wyatt Shorey said Monday. “So many unforseen things have come up.”

Expansion into the space formerly occupied by Forbidden Fruit will allow the restaurant to have a larger lounge area and will increase the restaurant’s capacity from 45 to about 100. Shorey said next summer the restaurant also will feature a deck that will overlook the river.

Patricia Buck Bridal will remain in the building. Parkhurst said he’s not sure yet whether its recessed entrance will remain that way or will be made flush with the rest of the building. Workers have been exposing the granite and the carved steel posts that hold up the rest of the building’s front.

The space below the Water Street level will house a business new to downtown Augusta. Downtown Yoga and Healing Arts is expected to open later this year with facilities for yoga classes and space for a mix of wellness practitioners such as massage therapists, reiki practitioners, estheticians and reflexologists.

“Making the fire marshal happy was difficult, expensive and time-consuming,” Parkhurst said as the contractors continued their work around him, “but in the end, we have a good, safe building.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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