GARDINER — Within the past month, three fire-damaged buildings and a vacant lot on Gardiner’s historic Water Street have gained new owners who have plans for them.

Ed Raws bought the vacant lot at 235 Water St. and the building just west of it from Justnjake Property Management, and Terry Berry bought 251 Water St. from Aspire Corp.

The buildings were damaged when fire broke out in 235 Water St. on the afternoon of July 16, 2015, and spread west into 251 Water St.

When it was over, 235 Water St. was so badly damaged that it was demolished four months later.

While Gerard’s Pizza at 233 Water St. reopened weeks after the fire, the other fire-damaged buildings have stood for more than a year and a half, boarded up and locked, but not sealed against the weather.

“It’s waterlogged and it stinks in there,” Berry, a real estate agent with Oceanside Realty Trust and the Gardiner city councilor for District 1, said Monday of 251 Water St. “And there’s a fair amount of mold.”

“Everything will have to go,” Berry said.

While the property originally held two 14-foot-wide buildings, Berry said he plans to treat it as one 28-foot-wide building, with retail or office space on the ground floor and “nice” apartments on the two upper floors.

But if someone were interested in using the entire building for offices, that is possible, too. While he plans to renovate and lease the buildings, he said he might sell them if he gets a good offer.

Berry said work is expected to start on the roof soon.

That will seal up the building against the weather and allow work to start on the interior, which includes replacing the wiring and plumbing and installing a heating system.

His $23,000 investment in the property is only the beginning.

Raws, a Gardiner resident, is partnering with Chris Vallee to put a bar in the building and a deck on the vacant lot at 235 Water St., the same kind of set-up used at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell, where Vallee is a partner.

Raws said he expects to start demolition next week and he and Vallee plan to open the bar by the end of May to take advantage of the summer season.

“We’re going to go as fast as we can,” he said.

The second floor might later be developed into a function room or a second bar.

The top floor would be offices and storage. Raws said he has no plans to put residential units above a bar.

“Water Street itself is gorgeous,” said Raws, who declined to give the property’s purchase price.

“And there’s plenty of parking behind it. And with the stream right there, it’s got stuff. It’s got the makings of something that people will enjoy while they are there.”

Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street, said the Water Street fire had the potential to set back the community’s accomplishments in revitalizing downtown Gardiner, but that doesn’t appear to be happening.

“I have noticed there is an unbelievable uptick in interest in real estate in downtown Gardiner,” he said.

“These owners see the opportunity, and I look forward to working with them to develop those opportunities. These buildings have a very real prospect for rehabilitation.”

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]