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By Joshua Maloni
Ellicott Development, the principal pillar in the Frontier House ownership team, is drawing closer to awarding construction bids to renovate Lewiston’s most-famous building.
On Friday, Director of Development Thomas Fox said, “It's just mostly processing at this point; working with Waterbourne as a construction manager with us to bid out the project with the drawings that we have.”
Since providing a project update last fall, Fox said, “It was a process of going through a number of comments back from the village office on questions and responses, in terms of the drawing set. Working through that. I think we're anticipating the permit soon. So, going through that, and then just the process of working with the construction manager to bid out all the work. And at this point, we're looking to make some initial awards for interior cleanout and some other inner preliminary construction-type work.”
He noted ownership also hopes to have a restaurant tenant on board in the near future.
“We're working right now with a prospective tenant that would take basement and first floor; a restaurant user. It's a bit of a development, working with a lease draft with them at this point,” Fox said.
Though he declined to name names, Fox noted, “It's not a national firm. It's a local restaurateur. A successful one. And we think they've got a concept that really aligns well with what we're trying to do, programmatically with the building; and then also as far as visions have aligned pretty easily and pretty quickly, in terms of what the interior aesthetic is going to be, and then the general field of property. It's a potentially really good marriage, if everything works out here.”
The timeline for a building reopening has been pushed back, and is likely moving to late-2023 or 2024.
“It's hard to tell at this point,” Fox said. “It’s still potential by the end of the year. I think that – if construction starts going in the next 45 days, it looks like – it's still possible (to reopen this year); but it might push into early next year.”
He explained, “We’ve got to move in chunks for the interior cleanout, first, before doing any new construction, sidewall framing – that sort of stuff. It all has to go in a proper order. But part of the initial work that we're talking about awarding now with including interior demolition, and some work related to the front porch, would also include, potentially in those initial phases, starting construction on that back porch.
“That back porch is still part of the plan. Still going to be done. That's going to be a secondary entrance for the residential dwelling units, as well as the restaurant tenant that we're talking with.
“That probably will happen on the front end, as we get going into the new construction after the interior demolition work that we need to do.
A new porch and entrance/exit is pegged for the side of the Frontier House facing Sgt. Peppers Hot Sauces and Brewed and Bottled Craft Beer Shop.
“The interior demolition stuff is kind of getting down to studs in some areas. There's some areas that we don't need to disturb, but other areas where they’re kind of non-historic, changes around the outside wall, furring and that sort of thing. Just to kind of peel those layers off and get back to a good structural base to work from, to do all of our interior infrastructure work and then our finished work.”
Fox said conversations with the Village of Lewiston have been “great,” but that’s only one part of a very large puzzle.
“One big chunk with it, I think, outside of the labor issues, of COVID, and outside of the financing issues and the construction costs, that's all – for many of our projects and many other developers in the area – it's kind of put a hold on things until the numbers make a little more sense, right? So, that's been a big factor,” Fox said. “But in terms of a project like this, there's certainly a lot of unknowns with a 200-year-old structure.
“As I mentioned in the past, it's a project that we're working with the state and federal, the SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) and the National Park Service for the Historic Tax Credit program. Their approval process was lengthy. That was part of that, as well – you know, some extra steps you’ve got to go through compared to a new, greenfield-type development, new ground-up construction.
“There's a lot more involved, and a lot more people that need to weigh in and give their blessing, in terms of how we're looking to develop this thing, given the historic nature of it. So, it's just something that takes a long time.
“But you know, certainly, the biggest piece of that was with COVID, and kind of what that did to the markets and the cost of things. Just kind of waiting till a better time to proceed and make sure the project is successful.”
460 Center St. – now identified as “The Historic Frontier House” on drawings submitted by architect Jim Fittante – was purchased by 4600 LLC Group in February 2019. Partners on the $800,000 transaction included Ellicott Development CEO William Paladino and Lewiston developers Bill Game and Jeff and Jerry Williams.
Fittante’s renderings indicate the Frontier House plan can accommodate:
•One commercial tenant in the basement level;
•Two commercial units, one tenant lounge, and one Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant one-bedroom unit (long-term rental) on the ground floor;
•Three one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit on the second floor (long-term rental);
•Two one-bedroom units and three studio units on the third floor (short-term rental); and
•One two-bedroom unit (short-term rental) on the fourth floor.
Waterbourne, per its website, is “upstate New York’s full-service commercial real estate and construction firm with over 25 years of proven experience. … The company is comprised of a group of professionals with a keen understanding of the issues that drive the client’s business and an ability to provide creative real estate solutions to support those issues.
“Since its inception in 1993, the firm has grown its services and clientele and as a result, developed into two distinct entities known as Waterbourne Real Estate Advisors, LLC, and Waterbourne Construction Advisors, LLC.”