AUGUSTA — A proposal to convert what is vacant office space in a block of four buildings into 23 new apartments in downtown Augusta is expected to go to the Planning Board on Tuesday.

The proposed project, named The Vickery after one of the historic buildings within the block at 257-271 Water St., would overlook the Kennebec River on one side and downtown Water Street on the other.

Developer Andrew LeBlanc, owner of the block of buildings, proposes to convert the vacant upper-floor office space there into apartments, with retail spots on the Water Street level.

The project would be funded, in part, by up to $960,000 in state and federal historic preservation tax credits. Application materials state the developer has been in discussions with multiple banks that have expressed interest in lending money for the project.

A description of the project filed with the city states the storefronts of the four connected buildings, which were converted into a single property by a previous owner, would replicate historic facades; and the developer’s intent is to lease them to “a regionally branded coffee shop, grocer, bakery or other retailers that would provide Water Street with additional services in line with the recent revitalization.”

The 27,000 square feet on the buildings’ upper floors, now mostly vacant office space, would be used for the apartments, with retail on the Water Street level.

Plans for the lower levels of the building, and its 16,000 square feet of space below the Kennebec River floodplain, include a gymnasium, a laundry, storage and shared workspaces.

The builder of the project, if the Planning Board approves it, would be Portland Builders, which was the general contractor on the Augusta Housing Authority’s conversion of the former Hodgkins Middle School into 47 units of senior housing now known as Hodgkins School Apartments.

Construction could start this July, with some apartments projected to be ready to be leased by January 2019.

In the past, the building has been home to the Maine Children’s Museum, Kennebec Pediatrics medical offices, and Laverdiere’s drugstore.

LeBlanc could not be reached for comment.

The site is in the city’s Kennebec Business District, General Development, Shoreland Overlay District, and Water Street Historic District. Apartment buildings are a conditional use in those zones, meaning they are allowed if they are deemed to be compatible to the neighborhood, though the level of review is higher than if apartments were a permitted, not conditional, use there.

The review and hearing are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

The proposed change in use in the 43,000-square-feet building from office space to apartments prompted the need for a major subdivision review by the Planning Board, which includes a public hearing.

Other proposals up for board review Tuesday include:

• An amendment to Maine Veterans’ Homes’ approved plans to build a 138-bed residential skilled nursing home at 35 Henry’s Way, across Old Belgrade Road from MaineGeneral Medical Center;

• An application from Jon Lamarche to operate Foundry Fitness & Martial Arts Academy in an existing building at 458 Riverside Drive; and

• An application from GLH Realty to create a three-lot subdivision at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Route 3, as part of a proposed new gas station and convenience store project.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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