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October 26, 2018

In Lewiston, investment boosts fortunes of buildings once ignored

Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
The 1903 building at 157 Main St. in Lewiston saw considerable interest from prospective buyers, likely due to the downtown's resurgence in recent years.

Not long ago, a century-old building at 157 Main St. in Lewiston received zero interest when it was put on the market.

Times are changing in what some characterize as a renaissance for the downtown.

"It seemed like there were close to a dozen people in the first two weeks [it was listed] who did walk-throughs," said Michael Dostie, whose father, Daniel Dostie, is part of the partnership that sold the building this time around.

"It exceeded anyone's expectations," continued Dostie. "The building had been put on the market over a decade ago, for less than half of what it was listed for recently, and not a single person looked at it at that time."

Locally known as the "Joe Bornstein Building" because that business occupies the first floor, 157 Main St. comprises a 8,928-square-foot multi-tenanted commercial building with 12 parking spaces on 0.22 acre. The building is believed to date to 1903.

LV Properties LLC purchased the property from HMS LLC for $540,000. Thomas Gadbois of F.O. Bailey Real Estate represented the seller in the transaction. The property was listed on April 10, went under contract on June 20 and closed Sept. 21.

Tenants include the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein on the first floor. Renovations several years ago included building out the second floor as a luxury condo, with a small space set aside as an office. The third floor was divided in half; one half was built out as a luxury condo. The other half was white-boxed with plumbing and electric systems, and is ready to be finished. All spaces except the apartment shell are occupied.

Personal connection

Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
The J. Dostie Jewelers store is in the corner building adjacent to 157 Main St., Lewiston.

Gadbois said the building is in excellent condition.

"They really took good care of it," he said of the sellers. "I haven't seen anything else as nice as this in Lewiston."

Gadbois noted he has a personal connection to the building. His father owns Eastern Carpet Cleaning in Scarborough, a 45-year-old business that does the carpet cleaning for all of the Joe Bornstein offices across Maine. Gadbois used to help out with the carpet-cleaning business.

"I always admired this Joe Bornstein office, so it's cool that I got to sell it," he said, adding that, as a multi-million-dollar producer for F.O. Bailey Real Estate, he primarily focuses on commercial and multi-units.

As is often the case in real estate, relationships helped make the transaction. Gadbois was approached by the sellers because he knew one of the partners.

"He said he heard I had a reputation for selling properties fast and for a good price," he said.

Original bank vault

Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
The sellers turned upper-story apartments into luxury condos several years ago.

157 Main St. is adjacent to a corner building, with an address of 4 Lisbon St., that houses J. Dostie Jewelers. Daniel Dostie also had purchased that building, and it remains in the family. J. Dostie Jewelers was founded by Michael Dostie's grandfather, Jules. It is now owned and operated by the second and third generations of the Dostie family.

In 1986, 157 Main St. was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to Maine Historic Preservation Commission documentation, the building is distinguished for its cast stone trim, highlighted against a background of high-quality pressed brick. The facade is divided by five Ionic pilasters supporting a full entablature that includes a cornice with dentils. The windows on the second and third stories have segmental and flat arched trim. There are cast stone balconies with wrought iron railings under the third-story windows.

"The building is primarily significant for its architectural design which consists of a French-inspired neo-classical facade that is unlike any other building of this period in Maine," the commission wrote. Designed by George Coombs and Eugene Gibbs, who together designed other buildings along Main and Lisbon streets, the building was constructed for First National Bank. The building bears the bank's name carved in the upper-story granite trim. At the time of the building's nomination to the historic register, it was occupied by Norstar Bank.

Dostie noted that the original bank vault is still in the building.

"It's not possible to move it," he said. "You'd have to dismantle part of the building to get it out. The door of the vault is probably three feet thick."

Riding an upswing

Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
Courtesy / F.O. Bailey Real Estate
The purchase of 157 Main St. included parking.

Dostie said his father bought the building at least 25 years ago and later took on his two partners. At the time, his father was in Lewiston frequently and could take care of the building and tenant needs on a regular basis.

At one point, he said, the jewelry store expanded to include the first floor of 157 Main St. and opened a gallery there. But downtown Lewiston was in a downturn.

"It was very empty downtown," he said. The gallery wasn't successful, so a café opened in its place. But that didn't work either.

"Lewiston wasn't ready for it," Dostie said.

The community's readiness to embark on an upswing began in the mid-2000s. At that time, Eric and Carrie Agren bought a historic building on Lisbon Street and opened the French bistro Fuel, which is among business and economic development activities at the time that are credited with helping to kick-start the city's resurgence that's still going on today.

"The community was ready. That spurred the whole beginnings of our downtown renaissance," Dostie said of Fuel.

So when Dostie's father and his partners indicated they wanted to sell 157 Main St., "I asked my father, 'Why would you want to sell commercial real estate in downtown Lewiston right now? The market is just starting to jump off.' My dad said, 'I've owned it for over 20 years. The real estate market has never been as good as it is right now.'"

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