The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on One Merchants Plaza

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2020, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Pittsfield to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2021 Virtual Spring Conference on May 20th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2020 Top 6 recipients include:

Rock Row Phase 1 Retail Center, Waterstone Properties Group (Westbrook)
82 Hanover Street, Port Property Management (Portland)
Hospice of Southern Maine, Zachau Construction / SMRT (Scarborough)
Solterra, Portland Housing Authority (Portland)
One Merchants Plaza, Sky Villa Properties (Bangor)
Puritan Medical COVID –Building Expansion (P2), Puritan Medical Products (Pittsfield)

Please join us this week in celebrating One Merchants Plaza.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Sky Villa Properties:  One Merchants Plaza, a seven story Class A office building, was the first all concrete building of its kind in the Bangor area. Built in 1972, the new building was set in the heart of the Bangor business district, with iconic views of the Kenduskeag Stream and the Penobscot River. It was designed by Eaton Tarbell, a well-known Bangor architect.

Working with Bev Uhlenhake of Epstein Commercial Real Estate, David St. Germain of Sky Villa Properties. purchased the One Merchants Plaza property for $1.85 million, with a plan to invest approximately $2.2 million in renovations. In 2020 after a lot of good decisions and hard work, the building became the new headquarters to Haley Ward, Inc., formerly CES, Inc., after extensive renovations by David and his team.

Other tenants include the Bangor Daily News, UBS, and Wabanaki Public Health.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project? 

Waterstone:  Growing Sky Villa Properties beyond its initial focus on residential properties within the Bangor, Brewer and Hampden areas was always a priority of David’s. After a few successful commercial endeavors in the area, he set his sights on One Merchants Plaza, with a desire to realize the building’s full potential by drawing new tenants through HVAC, aesthetics, and energy improvements.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Waterstone:  Business owners and entrepreneurs in Bangor are fortunate to have the City of Bangor’s Economic Development department as a resource and partner to help keep projects progressing. Tanya Emery and her team at the City recognized the importance of the having this building fully occupied and guided the permitting process so there were no surprises. The total time was around three – six months from the purchase and signed lease agreements to permitting and demolition.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Waterstone:  Once David set his mind to purchasing One Merchants Plaza and committed to the extensive renovations, the pieces clicked into place. “The success of One Merchants Plaza could not have happened without the right people in place for things to work smoothly,” said St. Germain. “Our team of Haley Ward, Inc. (formerly CES), Bowman Constructors, Bowerbird Design Collaborative worked together throughout the construction process for a seamless project.”

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Waterstone:  As a part of the due diligence with the property, St. Germain estimated that he could save significantly on energy costs through HVAC and lighting upgrades but was able to expound on the savings by tinting the windows. Denis St. Peter of Haley Ward did the legwork and investigated window tints that proved to be a tremendous savings in the efficiency of the building given the floor to ceiling windows. Speaking of Haley Ward another unexcepted surprise and very welcome was the growth of the company in 2020 and their leasing additional space on the fifth floor. They currently occupy 24600 sq ft out of the building total which is 54300 sq ft.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Waterstone:  Over the last 10-15 years, Downtown Bangor has seen remarkable growth and revitalization. Adding over 100 employees to a business building that was not at maximum capacity prior to the purchase and returning it to the significant economic development catalyst helps highlight Bangor’s economic vitality. As St. Germain said, “This unique structure stands out in the City and helps the Queen City sparkle.”

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