September 22, 2013

Near new Augusta hospital, homeowners hope to strike gold

Owners of property near MaineGeneral Medical Center's Alfond Center for Health hope to cash out big with sales for medical offices, but local experts say that's likely not going to happen soon, if at all

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — David and Kathy Willman have lived in a renovated 19th century farmhouse on Old Belgrade Road for more than 25 years.

click image to enlarge

David Willman paints a door on Friday at his Augusta home on Old Belgrade Road, near the new MaineGeneral regional hospital. Willman said that it was just regular maintenance that he'd be doing anyway regardless of whether or not the house is for sale.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

David Willman paints a door on Friday at his Augusta home on Old Belgrade Road, near the new MaineGeneral regional hospital. Willman said that it was just regular maintenance that he'd be doing anyway regardless of whether or not the house is for sale.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

When their grown daughter was young, she bicycled in middle of the road. Now 3,000 vehicles travel it every day, the Maine Department of Transportation has told neighborhood residents.

That number could triple in November, when MaineGeneral Health opens its $300-plus million hospital a third of a mile north of the Willmans' home.

So, like many others in the area, the Willmans put their home on the market hoping to attract a commercial- or medical-use developer.

They hope that since property in well-trafficked areas can get higher sale prices for commercial use than those sold for residential use, they'll get a premium.

The changing nature of the area sped up the Willmans' plan to downsize to a smaller house.

The house has "a lot of blood, sweat and tears in it," said David Willman, 54, in his kitchen Friday.

"It's hard to give up, but in the same breath, it's a different neighborhood."

Local experts say while the area around the new hospital is now Augusta's biggest economic development area, it'll be a matter of years before much of the growth is realized.

They say that and other factors mean homes won't necessarily sell quickly — or for big prices.

'Hoping to get rich'

At least eight residential houses for sale on Civic Center Drive, which is Route 27, and Old Belgrade Road are marketed as commercial or medical properties, according to online property listings. And those are just a fraction of the properties along the two roads that have for sale signs out front.

Real estate agents aren't reporting many sales yet, but the Willmans' across-the-street neighbors are an exception.

Donna Nutting, 73, said she and her husband, Bill, were the first people on Old Belgrade Road to sell their home, a four-bedroom house on more than seven acres. It was bought in June by Brian Gillis, an Oakland-based proctologist.

He paid the Nuttings approximately $400,000. They moved to Augusta's Mayfair neighborhood, buying a similar sized home on less land for about half that.

Nutting estimated that between 10 and 12 properties on the road have been listed for sale since construction started for MaineGeneral's Alfond Center for Health.

But the Nuttings' success isn't common.

Bill Sprague, of Augusta-based Sprague & Curtis Real Estate, which sold the Nuttings' home, said commercial users can usually pay more for a property than someone looking for a home. A ranch that could go for $150,000 in a residential area could sell for $300,000 along Civic Center Drive, he said.

However, Sprague said the cost to develop a property into a commercial space or a medical office can still be a challenge.

Often, homes on the property must be demolished, he said, and new costs for construction and parking can add up.

"Everybody put their houses on the market when the hospital (began construction) hoping to get rich," Nutting said, "which never happened."

Expansion, but no 'gold rush'

Real estate agents and business leaders expect the new hospital and an enhanced Interstate 95 exit to further spur development up Civic Center Drive and around the hospital.

But most aren't expecting an explosion of growth.

"We think new development is going to be slow and steady in that area," said Chris Paszyc of CBRE/The Boulos Company in Portland. "I don't think you're going to see the gold rush that some people are predicting."

Paszyc is the broker for three properties on Civic Center Drive, including a home marketed as a commercial development opportunity. He said there's already a lot of undeveloped land along the road and not all residential sites are suitable for commercial development.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

This map shows the locations of eight homes in the vicinity of the Alfond Center for Care that are being sold as commercial properties.

  


Further Discussion

Here at KJonline.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)