In Maine capital, a plan to renovate key building

Posted Oct. 22, 2010, at 9:08 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A proposal to renovate a building in downtown Augusta could bring activity to a place that’s been missing it.

Developer Richard Parkhurst is proposing an $841,000 renovation of the building that housed Chernowsky’s clothing store until 1994, which has been vacant since last year. He has proposed changes that would install 10 loft apartments and a new restaurant or pub.

The Kennebec Journal reports that a key to the project is the city’s plan to install a propane tank farm in the downtown area that would provide fuel for the restaurant and heat for the apartments, on the upper two floors.

Parkhurst said he plans to offer a would-be restaurant operator rent-free space on the ground floor for the first two years, if certain conditions are met, to help lure them to come.

“It’s a bit of a change from what has been going on downtown,” Parkhurst told city councilors Thursday.

The project would renovate the old Chernowsky’s building at 228 Water St., which housed the clothing store of the same name that closed in 1994 and, more recently, Pavlov’s Music.

It has been vacant since Pavlov’s closed last year.

As an incentive, Parkhurst plans to offer potential restaurant operators two years of free rent if they pay the cost of fitting up renovations and agree to a five-year lease.

He noted new restaurants often struggle to get established, with many going out of business within the first couple of years.

“We feel we need to induce restaurants to go into business with us,” Parkhurst said.

Parkhurst, of Winthrop, is also an owner of Oakes and Parkhurst Glass.

The project would use $73,200 already collected through the city’s downtown Tax Increment Financing District, or TIF, fund. The city would provide upfront money for the project and would be paid back, over time, through a supply contract with a propane vendor, Mayor Roger Katz said when the propane proposal was approved by councilors in July.

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