Sunday, March 9, 2014
A year ago, I restated my promise to redevelop the Kennebec Arsenal complex.
I am grateful for this opportunity to update the people of Augusta on the progress that has been made since then. This project is literally in their backyard, and they deserve to know what is happening with the development as it affects the growth of their community.
Since October 2011, we have winterized the buildings, removed the graffiti, cleaned up the damage left from vandalism and hired a caretaker. And very importantly, I obtained a building permit to start renovations on The Barracks. This was the beginning of my building-by-building renovation plan.
Late that month, my team started preparing The Barracks for renovation, beginning its conversion into a residential duplex.
In April, however, the work was interrupted when the state recommended that I explore partnering with other developers. My building-by-building renovation approach had to be put on hold to accommodate the state's request.
I met with the developers that the state told me about, and others. While they expressed some interest, the economic climate discouraged a positive outcome.
I am anxious to return to my building-by-building renovation plan. On Oct. 22, I sent a letter to the state to consider my detailed proposal of how I would complete the renovation and development of the historic Arsenal complex.
I can accomplish my proposal as long as the state approves of my plan, and stands with me in the spirit of making sure the complex is redeveloped to historic codes, and is a project that the people of Augusta will be proud of.
I have invited state and local officials to tour the Arsenal complex with me so they can see the progress that already has taken place. I'm looking forward to explaining my detailed proposal to them as we walk around the historic property.
The initial development phase consists of The Barracks, South Burleigh, The Gate House, Old Max and North Burleigh. We estimate these projects will be completed within the next 36 months.
Then I am hoping to redo the Commandant's Quarters in conjunction with Burleigh as a bed and breakfast or boutique hotel. Construction here would not begin until 2015.
Unfortunately, I couldn't focus on the Arsenal project when the recession hit.
Despite hardships, I managed to be true to Maine with Niemann Capital's renovation of the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville. This $32 million project composed of 236,000 square feet, consisting of 67 apartments and commercial space was completed in 2009 ahead of schedule and during the height of the recession.
I worked directly with the governor, the Legislature and local officials in 2006-08 on a pilot historic tax credit program, which is now a statewide tax credit.
The effort was well worth my time as other developers now have an even playing field when redeveloping historic properties. Before, it was not cost-effective; frankly, it was easier and more profitable to build something new.
Maine's downtowns are becoming centers of economic activity with redevelopment projects, largely because of these tax credits.
My actions, working with state officials on these tax credits and successfully redeveloping Hathaway, show my commitment and my passion for completing projects in Maine.
I've worked directly with federal officials at Housing and Urban Development, preservation authorities and different lawmakers to make sure redevelopments are done with the utmost integrity to their heritage and to help communities flourish with mixed-use housing.
Renovating historic buildings has given me the opportunity to help revitalize downtown communities -- that's why I'm in development. I believe that if you invest in downtown communities by renovating historic buildings you revitalize communities as more folks gravitate to the area to live and work.
I'm now more dedicated than ever to the Arsenal properties, and the people of Augusta. I want to ensure the best outcome for the community.
Tom Niemann is president and chief executive officer of Niemann Capital, the North Carolina investment firm that renovates historic properties.