The exterior of 99 Franklin St., the former home of Bangor Savings Bank headquarters, which is being renovated into 18 luxury apartments. Credit: Emily Burnham

By spring 2020, 28 apartments will be leased or ready to lease in two buildings on Franklin Street in Bangor that have been fully renovated over the past year, adding to a high-end downtown rental market that has seen exponential growth in the past five years.

The apartments are part of two large redevelopment efforts undertaken over the past year by two teams of Bangor developers.

Abe and Heather Furth, who own Orono Brewing Company, and their business partner, contractor Roy Hubbard, purchased 29 Franklin St. in 2017. The building was most recently owned by, and the home for, social services organization Northeast Occupational Exchange.

The city of Bangor has assessed the tax value of 29 Franklin St. at $555,700, and its purchase has brought it back onto the city’s tax rolls, as Northeast Occupational Exchange is a nonprofit. The City Council voted in March to extend seven years of property tax relief to the Furths and Hubbard, due to their extensive renovations.

Just a few hundred feet down the street, Vance Aloupis, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bangor, purchased the five-story 99 Franklin St. in October 2018. The assessed tax value for that building, which formerly was the corporate headquarters of Bangor Savings Bank before it moved to its new Bangor Waterfront campus in February 2019, is $1,272,300.

Tower 99, as Aloupis and his property manager, Tammie Boisvert, have dubbed the property, is a project Aloupis has long wanted to undertake. Aloupis owns two other large apartment complexes in Bangor through his company, Longrale Apartments, with 128 units in total.

“I’ve always wanted to own a high-rise, so when this building became available, I knew this was the one for me,” Aloupis, 72, said. “And, it’s got parking, which is really important.”

Boisvert has been overseeing the renovations on the building. The bottom floor of 99 Franklin St. was built in 1912, as were many of the buildings on Franklin Street, which was devastated by the Great Bangor Fire of 1911. In the 1970s, the top four floors were built on top of the ground floor. Bangor Savings moved in in the 1990s and was there for more than 20 years.

Credit: Courtesy of Bangor Public Library

Boisvert said that construction firm Dunbar & Brawn has fully gutted the interior of the building, which was formerly made up entirely of offices, including replacing the entire HVAC and electrical systems.

“It’s an interesting building. Every apartment has just a slightly different shape, so they are all unique in one way or another,” she said. “We really want to offer a level of quality and amenities that nothing else in downtown has. The kind you would see in a major city.”

The 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments at Tower 99 range in price from $1,800 per month to $3,000, and range in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet. All feature large windows, 10-foot ceilings, fiber optic internet and full cable TV packages, air conditioning, and in-unit laundry. Tenants will have on-site parking and access to a rooftop patio and lounge, as well as use of a gym equipped with Peloton exercise equipment.

The Maine State Housing Authority’s most recent data on rental rates in Bangor, released in 2017, show that the average two-bedroom rental in Bangor costs $922 per month, including utilities.

Boisvert said they have received a number of inquiries about the apartments, but that they are not yet done with work on the building and won’t be ready to begin showing until later this year, with the first people moving in in early 2020.

“It’s a lot of folks in their 50s and older. A lot of empty nesters; people that want to sell their houses and be downtown,” she said.

Across the Kenduskeag Stream at 29 Franklin St., which was also built in 1912, the Furths and Hubbard have gutted the interior of the building, removing dropped ceilings and drywall to reveal brick walls and soaring ceilings. Work began in October 2018, after Northeast Occupational Exchange finished moving out of the building, and it included the removal of an old glass atrium that was installed in the 1980s, back when the building housed the nightclub Finnegan’s and, later, a restaurant.

Credit: Emily Burnham

The 10 apartments in the building range in price from $1,200 per month to $1,800, and include in-unit laundry, off-street parking and air conditioning.

“We wanted to offer apartments that were a little more moderately priced, and so far we’ve seen a great diversity of people interested in renting,” said Heather Furth, who said they have already rented out six of the 10 apartments. “We have people in their early 20s and people in their 50s, so it’s a real mix.”

The first floor of 29 Franklin St. is still being renovated by the Furths and Hubbard, and when it is complete will feature two large or four small commercial storefronts. Heather Furth, who co-owns with her husband two other buildings in downtown Bangor, as well as two buildings in Orono, said that finding tenants for the commercial space is a challenge she enjoys.

“This is the first time we’re not self-tenanting one of our buildings, so it has been really interesting to see some of the early inquiries,” she said. “But we aren’t going to worry too much about filling those spaces until all the apartments are full first. Though we would love to hear any ideas anybody has.”

The owners of both buildings declined to reveal how much in total they had spent on their respective redevelopment projects.

Boisvert said she believes the market for mid- to high-end apartments in Bangor still has room to grow.

“I think Telford really broke the mold and showed us how to be successful,” said Boisvert, referring to Telford Allen III and his property manager, Louis Morrison, who purchased and rehabbed 28 Broad St. and 31 Main St. in downtown Bangor into a total of seven luxury apartments that opened in 2015 and 2016 respectively. “People want to be downtown. They want to be near things to do. And they are willing to pay for it.”

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.