February 1, 2013

Levine's building in Waterville sought by Conn. businessman

Downtown Waterville landmark could be purchased by month's end, says Michael Soracchi, with plans to offer housing and retail space

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- A Connecticut businessman with ties to Maine plans to buy and renovate the former Levine's clothing store building downtown.

click image to enlarge

Michael Soracchi, of Milford, Conn., plans to buy and renovate the old Levine's clothing store building on Main Street in downtown Waterville.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Levine's in downtown Waterville in an undated file photo.

Staff file photo

Michael Soracchi said Friday that he plans to have housing on the top three floors of the 9-19 Main St. building and retail business in the basement and first floor.

"I just spent the whole week in Waterville," Soracchi said Friday from his home in Milford, Conn. "I was meeting with professional engineers and some contractors, as well as a lot of people in the city we're going to need to work with."

Soracchi, 46, said that he plans to close on the property by the end of the month and initially will clean up the property to make it look nice. He said he would explain in greater detail his plans after the sale is final.

"We're planning on utilizing the housing in the building and looking at the best use for the commercial real estate," he said. "The building needs a lot of renovation to bring it back to the condition it was in when it was Levine's."

Levine's, popularly known as "the store for men and boys," was founded on Ticonic Street in 1891 by William Levine. It moved several times before Levine bought the Main Street site in 1904 and moved the store there.

Levine's sons, Pacy and Ludy Levine, eventually owned the store, which was managed by their nephew, Howard Miller. Pacy Levine died in 1996 and Ludy Levine, 1997. The store closed in 1996.

Tom Oliver of Manchester bought the building in 1998. In 2005, he rented out space in the building to flea market vendors. He also rented apartments upstairs.

"I do wish him (Soracchi) well and I hope things turn out for him," Oliver said Friday. "It sounds like a very worthwhile project. It will be good for the city of Waterville."

Darryl Sterling, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, said Soracchi approached him about the building last October. They met several times to talk about its future.

"He and I brainstormed," Sterling said Friday. "We looked at, how do we do something that is a good fit for the community. There's enough flexibility with the project. I feel really good about this one."

Sterling also got a group of city officials, economic development advocates and others together to discuss the project, he said.

"The good news is, it'll start being renovated in the spring and over the next few months, it'll be much improved," Sterling said. "This is going to be wonderful news for downtown Waterville."

Mayor Karen Heck said she is delighted the building is being sold to someone who wants to develop it.

"I appreciate Darryl's doing the work to make this happen and I am looking forward to seeing it restored," she said.

Soracchi said he hopes to get input from people about what sort of retail business they would like to see in the downtown building.

"People are excited to have that building kind of brought back online," he said. "We are looking for ideas for what to do with the retail and I would love to hear from people. I'd love to hear what their thoughts are. If people want to contact me they can certainly reach me at levinesbuilding@lev8.com."

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, met with Soracchi late last year, as well as this week.

She said it is exciting to see movement on the building, which has been a topic of discussion for a long time.

"I think it can really have a positive outcome for the downtown overall," Olsen said.

She said Soracchi, an IT program developer, is enthusiastic about renovating the building, understands what it needs and wants to improve the facade right away.

"I got the sense that he wants to be a good neighbor," Olsen said.

Soracchi said he learned about the building from Realtor.com.

He is also familiar with Maine. Soracchi owns a rental property in Skowhegan, as well as property in Jefferson, he said. Seven years ago he and his family bought a camp on Damariscotta Lake.

"I love Maine," he said. "Maine's one of my favorite states."

Soracchi said his grandparents had a camp in Bremen, where he spent his first birthday.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247

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