When one of Bangor’s most prominent areas changed hands last September, it was nearly 60 percent vacant. Owner Tim McClary said there is now only one vacancy in the buildings at Central and Hammond streets.
Real estate broker McClary and his partners at 207 Capital LLC purchased 1-35 Central St. In addition to 23 and 25 Hammond St. for $1.2 million on Sept. 1, 2022, according to city records. He added that their plan was to keep the space commercial and attract more businesses, which would complement the various residential projects downtown.
Most recently, Tom Bordeaux of Portland-based ArtStream LLC purchased 187, 189, 191, 193, 197 and 205 Exchange Street for $1 million from ANM Properties on March 3, city records show, but he has not publicly disclosed his plans. The stretch is known to some as the Nichols Block, which houses the Bangor Arts Exchange.
“Right now, we are still getting a feel for the building and making plans internally,” the property manager said Friday.
Over the past year or so, some of Bangor’s iconic blocks have changed ownership, raising questions about the future of downtown. Notable projects are underway or completed, such as the renovation of the former Bangor Hydro building. At 207 Capital properties, also called the Stetson Block, people have moved in looking for a prime location for their storefront or services.
“We knew there was potential to attract people downtown,” said Nicole LaRochelle, founder and CEO of the medical aesthetics company that opened at 31 Central Street in June. “They can get bagels (at Bagel Central) and Botox at the same time. We’re upstairs.”
Ruth & Naomi Medical Aesthetics LLC has four registered nurses who provide Botox, fillers, IV therapy and other services, she said.
The company covered the costs of painting the walls, laying new flooring in place of broken tiles, and reconnecting electricity because having an aesthetic space for customers is important, LaRochelle said. Other expenses were handled by 207 Capital, such as window replacements.
The company spent about $200,000 on improvements, including $90,000 on the roof, hiring a private security company to monitor the building, and changing fluorescent lights to high-efficiency LEDs, McClary said. There have also been some unexpected repairs, such as in June, when a broken toilet overflowed and caused water to leak through the ceiling of The Briar Patch Library.
The company also plans to take advantage of Bangor’s annual facade grants, which will allow it to replace windows in older buildings. The south-facing windows are in particularly rough condition, McClary said.
When 207 Capital acquired the company, nearly every tenant in the building had a month-to-month lease, and was offered long-term leases at slightly higher rates, McClary said. Some have left, but many new businesses have set up shop, he said.
He said that since companies were unable to absorb the immediate jump in market price, they gradually increased their prices.
Lisa Duff, who owns Precious Photography, has moved from 31 Central St. To 9 Central St. last year so she could upgrade her studio space. It doesn’t have a storefront like some other businesses, but it relies on downtown traffic and handing out business cards to attract new customers.
She said she likes the history of the building and that tenants can make creative changes to their spaces, although she wishes the upper floors were accessible to people in wheelchairs. In the new year, Duff said she plans to paint her studio bright white and put in more shelves, among other modifications to make it more comfortable.
“I think what’s happening downtown is good for small businesses,” she said. “This is where they can get a strong start.”
207 Capital houses 61 tenants between the two buildings, including artist studios and office space. Businesses that have moved in since last September include vintage stores Red Rabbit Bazaar, UniKue & OriJinals, Bangor Haberdashery, Clean Carving Tattoo Parlor, candle company Koko Collective, Crime Shield USA and others.
Gibran Graham, owner of The Briar Patch, said investment in downtown Bangor must be done in a comprehensive way, while supporting and nurturing the businesses that make up the fabric of the city.
“When new investors come in, they need to think about what is good long-term for downtown, not just one building and their money,” he said.
Graham has been leasing additional space next door to his business, which he uses for storage but has hoped to turn into an expansion since 2020, although the COVID-19 pandemic and a debilitating stroke in February delayed his plans. He said he still hopes to expand, but first wants to reach an agreement with 207 Capital, which he hopes will happen in the next few months.