Developers Andrew LeBlanc, left, and Jon Miller pose May 1 at The Vickery in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Ten months after securing financing, the developers of The Vickery in downtown Augusta have completed their first units. By the end of next week, the first tenants are expected to start moving in.

In all, Mastview Development is adding 23 apartments, a combination of one- and two-bedroom units, to the roster of market-rate rentals in Augusta’s historic downtown, with monthly rents ranging from $1,000 to $2,100.

Andrew LeBlanc and Jonathan Miller, the partners behind Mastview Development, say their project has preserved historic building exteriors while creating modern spaces for those interested in living downtown in Maine’s capital city.

“We definitely have larger units that are more expensive that we imagine a doctor or a resident at (Central Maine Medical Center),” LeBlanc said. “But we priced that accordingly so we could have a unit a nonprofit worker could afford or restaurant workers. Our hope is to have everybody, all gradients of income, being able to live in a quality residence — a home, not an apartment.”

The Vickery was originally four adjacent buildings on Water Street. Before the project, the buildings were home in recent decades to medical offices like Kennebec Pediatrics, the Vickery Cafe, the Maine Children’s Museum and at one point, a LaVerdiere’s drugstore.

Because the building has been occupied, LeBlanc said, it was in good shape; there was no need to remediate the years-long effects of a leaky roof or neglect, and it had a sprinkler system, a fire stairwell and an elevator that complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act. When demolition and construction started, all the work was reshaping about 28,000 square feet of interior space into 23 residential units, ranging from open-plan one-bedroom units to duplex two-bedrooms.

“We were working in a situation where we could use a lot of our capital to make the end product as high-level as possible,” LeBlanc said.

The building also includes three commercial spaces on Water Street, which will also be available to lease.

The project had been in the works for several years before construction started. The property had been on the market for $1.25 million, and LeBlanc had been working with an out of state partnership group, but that fell through and he was looking at other options.

In 2017, he approached Jonathan Miller about taking part. The longtime friend and one-time roommate was a consultant on sustainability and building design.

“I presented this opportunity to him in his kitchen and said, ‘Hey, if you can get a loan for 75 grand (for their share of the investment), I think we can do this,'” LeBlanc said.

The partnership was formed, and the project ended up costing a lot more.

The development costs totaled $6.5 million, and the financing package included the sale of historic preservation tax credits working with Coastal Enterprises Inc. and Katahdin Trust Co., which also provided construction financing.

The recently renovated Vickery apartment development on Water Street, shown Wednesday in downtown Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

This development joins other residential developments in downtown Augusta completed by Richard Parkhurst, Tobias Parkhurst and William Guerrette, which have added market-rate apartments to the city’s inventory of house.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Richard Parkhurst said about The Vickery. “I get several calls a week. If I had 20 more units, I could rent them. People want to live in downtown Augusta. I am surprised in the amount of interest I get. I can’t wait for Andrew to get his building online.”

Adding additional tenants to downtown Augusta will only add demand for the restaurants that have already opened on Water Street, and will drive demand for other retail operations to meet the needs of tenants, he said.

“I believe we are creating a unique community in that small downtown area,” Richard Parkhurst said. “The majority are young professionals, and they want the excitement of a vibrant community. They want to go out and have a drink in the evening or have something to eat.”

When he started his first building a little more than six years ago, he said he envisioned people living in the upper floors, above restaurants, and food and boutique stores, and that sequence is now playing out.

Even as the highly contagious coronavirus spread across Maine and closed many businesses in the last two months, it did not stop the work on this project by PM Construction Co. Miller said he secured masks for workers and installed a hand-washing station  at the Front Street entrance.

“We have weekly meetings in which we address the topic and made sure everyone was comfortable with the working conditions, and we were able to continue construction,” Miller said.

Now that the vast majority of work has been completed, information about the apartments has been posted on thevickery.com, as well as sites like apartments.com and Trulia.

Coronavirus has also affected how the units are being leased.

“Our leasing agent has been doing Zoom virtual tours,” LeBlanc said. “We actually had a tenant sign up up based on the virtual tour because he’s moving from Michigan to Maine. So, we’re trying to figure it out as we go. But everyone’s been flexible and we’re trying to be as conscientious as possible.”

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