Nick Mullins walks through the fourth floor apartment, which features exposed brick walls. Nick and Kortnie Mullins, owners of Community Real Estate Solutions, are currently renovating 22 State Street, which will house three, two-bedroom apartments and their office space. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

After purchasing and renovating 14 single- and multi-family homes in the Bangor area, local property developers Kortnie and Nick Mullins are hard at work on their latest acquisition: 22 State St., the couple’s first downtown Bangor building.

The four-story building, built in 1911 and located between Tea & Tarts and Orono Brewing Co., will soon house three two-bedroom apartments as well as the first-floor offices for the Mullins’ property management and development company, Community Real Estate Solutions.

“We’ve been looking for a downtown building for a few years now,” said Nick Mullins, 31. “When we walked in and saw the light coming through the windows on the upper floors, it was just like, ‘This is it.’”

The building was home to the law offices of Cohen & Cohen for more than 40 years, until the law firm sold it in May 2018 to local doctor Eddy Karnabi. According to city records, Karnabi sold it to the Mullinses for $330,000 in September 2019. Prior to the law office, 22 State St. was the site of a downtown location for vending machine company Canteen in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The building, like so many of the downtown buildings built immediately after the Great Bangor Fire of 1911, had brick walls, hardwood floors and tin ceilings that were covered up by decades of drywall, dropped ceilings, linoleum and carpet. The Mullinses have removed most of these, exposing the brick and restoring the floors. All three apartments will have two bedrooms, with the top floor being the largest and most expensive; they plan to price them at between $1,500 and $2,000 per month, making the 22 State St. property among the more expensive rentals Community Real Estate Solutions presently offers.

The units will join a growing number of high-end apartments in downtown Bangor.

The Mullins’ redevelopment of 22 State St. is the last in a series of rapid redevelopment and changes in ownership on that block. Between 2015 and 2019, five out of the six buildings between 6 State St. and 8 Harlow St. have seen major changes. In 2015, Abe and Heather Furth bought and renovated 26 State St., now home to Orono Brewing Co. and apartments, and Gene Spearrin converted his business at 8 Harlow St. from a barbershop into a medical marijuana shop, Grass Roots of Maine. In 2016, developer Emily Tilton purchased 20 State St., now home to Tea & Tarts and more apartments.

In 2019, Robb and Christen Gordon purchased 14-16 State St. from longtime owner Jane Bragg, and the Thomas School of Dance and Bangor Ballet have since moved out into a new facility on Union Street; their former locations are presently empty.

For the Mullinses, property development is personal. They specialize in restoring homes that have fallen into disrepair and are in danger of foreclosure or condemnation. One of the first homes they restored was the dilapidated property at 15 Garland St., which they purchased from the city in March 2018, just hours before the City Council was set to vote to demolish it. That property, completed in September 2019, now boasts two fully renovated, mid-priced three-bedroom apartments.

“Not every house like that is going to be worth it, but the right one can absolutely be,” Nick Mullins said. “It’s really important to us to make sure we offer affordable, quality housing.”

Though the financial aspect is important, equally important is the personal connection buyers, sellers and lessees have with the place they call home.

“We love the stories behind these houses. We love contacting former residents and owners so they can see the place, and how we’ve changed it,” said Kortnie Mullins, 28, a Bangor native who followed in the footsteps of her mother, Realty of Maine broker Renee Hudgens, in the real estate world. “It’s not just a building. It’s somebody’s home. It’s memories.”

Nick Mullins, a native of southern Maine, grew up in a large, working-class family and spent most of his youth moving from apartment to apartment in the Sanford area. As such, he’s keenly aware of the struggles many couples and families experience — and of the mistakes both landlords and renters make on a regular basis.

“I know this world because I’ve been on both sides of it,” he said.

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