WATERVILLE — New life is being breathed into the former Levine’s building downtown, as apartments on the upper floors are being renovated and retail and commercial tenants sought for the main floor.
Owners Michael Soracchi, 46, and his wife, Chris, 43, envision a nightclub and businesses such as a department store on the main floor.
Eighteen apartments on the second, third and fourth floors are being renovated, with four apartments on the second floor expected to be available for rent this month, Michael Soracchi said Thursday.
“Probably sometime in August, we’ll have the third floor done,” he said. He said he expects the fourth floor to be renovated by early fall.
The building was also a stop on U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s recent tour of downtown Waterville with Mayor Karen Heck.
The Soracchis said on the tour that all new windows, toilets and sinks have been installed in the apartments, but the old cast-iron tubs will remain.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make the apartments comfortable and warm and safe and nice, and we want to keep as much of the historical character as possible,” Michael Soracchi said.
Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, who also took the tour, said this week that the Levine’s building renovation is exciting and furthers the goal of having people living and working downtown and not needing to drive.
“When I first came to work here in Waterville, the building was identified as one that really needed attention,” Olsen said. “When a downtown building is left to neglect like it had been, it kind of casts a pall over everything, so to see an invested owner take an interest in the community like Mike has, it’s really refreshing and it’s great to see.”
She said Soracchi is responsive and interested in what the community wants to see in the building.
“For me, it’s a win-win, if we can get more people downtown and if we can get a dormant space in use,” Olsen said.
Michael Soracchi earlier this year bought the old building, which was once known as “the store for men and boys.”
The Levine’s store was founded in 1891 by William Levine, who moved it to the Main Street site in 1904. Levine’s sons, Pacy and Ludy, later took over ownership, but the store closed in 1996, the same year when Pacy Levine died. Ludy Levine died the next year.
Tom Oliver, of Manchester, bought the building in 1998. In 2005 he rented space in the building to flea market vendors. He also rented apartments upstairs until last year, when a bank took over the property.
The Soracchis, who live in Milford, Conn., spend about 10 days a month in the area. The couple also owns rental property in Skowhegan and Jefferson as well as a camp on Damariscotta Lake.
One business already in the building and nearly ready to open is INK-4-LIFE, a tattoo business. It was destroyed last month in a fire at 18 Main St. across the street.
“We’re looking at having an opening within the next week,” Michael Soracchi said of the tattoo shop. “They got their certificate of occupancy, and their space is almost completely finished. It really looks amazing.”
Amy Calder — 861-9247