RICHMOND — Les Fossel and Sarah Watt maneuvered a laminated plate glass window out of its opening on the Front Street side of the Hathorn Block.

The quiet but significant work on Monday belied the activity and noise at the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife bulkhead reconstruction project just across Front Street.

Now, the other windows in the Hathorn Block are slated to be replaced with windows that reflect the historic nature of the building as it’s renovated for a new life with condominiums.

O’Neil LaPlante, chairman of the Richmond Board of Selectmen, said the immediate benefit to Richmond is returning the building to a healthy tax-paying role. The longer-term impact will come from the attention the project will focus on Richmond.

“People will see how good it can be as a place to live,” LaPlante said, noting that Richmond appears at No. 4 on a recently published list of Maine’s 20 best towns.

In October 2015, Fossel bought the Hathorn Block from the town of Richmond for $1. He and his partners through Fossel Preservation Partners LLC were planning to renovate it, using historic preservation tax credits, into market-rate apartments on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor, all overlooking the Kennebec River.

In the year and a half since then, the plan has undergone a strategic shift, but it’s still going forward.

The building will be developed as residential condominium units, priced between $193,000 and $398,000 with a single commercial unit on the Main Street side and no tax credits will be used. Fossel said the process was taking too long to complete at the federal level, and the delays were costing money. Fossel Preservation Partners started to consider the move in 2016 as an alternative to the tax credits. At that time, Fossel said the condominium option would mean more property tax revenue for Richmond than apartments.

Originally, the partners had planned a fairly aggressive schedule with a completion date of early 2017.

“It depends on sales,” Fossel said Monday. “The faster they sell, the faster we can move ahead.”

Several people have expressed interest in the units, but he said he has taken no deposits yet.

Meanwhile, town officials are pleased the project is moving ahead.

Both the state of Maine and the town are investing in waterfront improvements, LaPlante said, and events like Richmond Days are drawing in people from across the region. He can see Richmond as a destination for recreational boaters and fishermen on the Kennebec.

“No one is going to come and build a big mill in Richmond,” he said, but they will come for recreational pursuits. “These are things we’re looking to attract right now.”

As outlined in the promotional material, the units will all be a little different. Some will be on a single level, and others will have two floors. The top of the building is being reserved for two penthouses, each with its own private elevator and decks that over look the river. Each will come with a garage and parking, in addition to private storage.

In every version of the redevelopment plan, the historic features in Richmond’s marquee historic building have been preserved.

When brothers Jefferson and Joseph Hathorn started construction of the Hathorn Block in 1849, the waterfront building was on track to be the largest in town. According to the history of the building documented by John Alley Robbins Jr., the Hathorn Block was used as living space by Joseph Hathorn and his family and as warehouse space starting in 1850. The building became home to the Richmond Bank, the town’s first bank, in 1852.

Over time, the building was home to several grocery and dry goods stores, the post office twice — including the time in the late 1890s when robbers tried to blow up a safe in the middle of the night and ignited a serious fire.

It was close to demolition when Fossel bought it. Its windows were covered in plywood and the south wall was stabilized with exterior timber.

The bricks have been stabilized and the timbers have been removed, as has the plywood. Fossel said because he couldn’t find anyone to do the windows to his specifications, they were rebuilt in his own shop, at a cost of about $111,000. The partnership declined on Monday to estimate the total cost of the project.

Fossel sees potential in the property and in Richmond. He said his project compares favorably to a condominium project being developed in Bath, both on cost and commuting distance to Portland — his units are priced 20 percent less, and the travel time to Portland is comparable.

“Actually, it’s a minute less from Richmond,” he said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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