AUGUSTA — A downtown developer’s proposal to convert former office space into 12 apartments in the former Farrell’s block of attached buildings at 275-287 Water St. goes to the Planning Board seeking approval Tuesday.

Extensive renovation work has been underway for months at the prominent downtown buildings between the Kennebec River and Water Street, with contractors hired by owner Richard Parkhurst converting the upper three floors, previously office space, into apartments.

The project, under state law, must undergo review as a major subdivision by the Planning Board, because it would convert commercial space into residential space.

Neither Parkhurst nor the city staff anticipate any problems in the project getting the board’s approval to create 12 apartments in a zone where multi-family residential housing is a permitted use, according to Matt Nazar, city development director.

Nazar said the proposal was “pretty straightforward” and a staff review of the application turned up no concerns.

Parkhurst, who previously has converted other upper-floor space in downtown buildings into apartments, said the project is on schedule and on budget.

“The first of the year, we’ll have people in there,” he said Monday. “Four (of the apartments) are spoken for as of now. We’ll start showing (the others) this week.”

He said there seems to be a lot of interest in the project and he anticipates being able to find tenants for all of the new apartments.

Parkhurst said tenants of the apartments would get residential parking permits, issued by the quasi-municipal Augusta Parking District, to park downtown. The building does not have its own standalone parking lot, but there are parking spaces on both sides of it.

Nazar said getting such parking permits is a fairly typical way to meet parking requirements for downtown residents.

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and review the project as a major subdivision because, Nazar said, state law considers any conversion of commercial space into residential space of three or more units to be a subdivision. Subdivisions are, more typically, plots of land that are divided up into smaller parcels to be sold off as individual lots.

The review is only for the upper-level apartments Parkhurst plans to rent out at market rates, and does not involve Parkhurst’s plans to lease space on the lower floors to a restaurant, Otto’s on the River; a yoga studio, Downtown Yoga and Healing Arts; and bridal shop, Patricia Buck Bridal.

Last year he bought the building, which had numerous problems, including a bad roof, an outdated electrical system and a sprinkler system that failed an inspection. He has had contractors working to renovate it since then.

Because the site is in a floodplain, the building renovations were designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency design standards, and flood insurance was required.

Parkhurst said city officials have been cooperative on the project and he is looking forward to completing it.

The two top-floor apartments will have their own rooftop decks overlooking the Kennebec River, according to plans filed with the city for the project.

The Planning Board, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center, also is scheduled to hold a public hearing and consider granting a conditional use permit to Ken Knight to expand a nonconforming use, a used classic car business, from 2,400 square feet to 3,968 square feet, at 3327 North Belfast Ave.; and an amendment to a major subdivision application, for Lapointe/St. Onge Development LLC, for a proposed subdivision at 2798 North Belfast Ave. and 3 and 4 Normands Way.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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