Private group rehabilitates downtown building



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The Gill Building today. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
June 03, 2009
BERLIN — Redubbed the Gill Building, 52 Main Street now has commercial space on the first floor, and four upscale apartments between 600 and 850 square feet on the second and third floors. The apartments each have tile floors, a view, energy efficient washers and dryers, and storage units in the basement.

The renovation took two years to complete.

"We literally took the building down to its outside shell," David Morin said, one of the investors.

The apartments are soundproof and the floors are solid. Mr. Morin said if there was any doubt during construction they reinforced the joists and insulated the walls.

"We're confident there are a lot of people out there looking for quality apartments," he said.

And they are quality apartments. From faucets to lighting fixtures, every part balances practicality with build quality. Nothing is extravagant, but this was no cosmetic redo.

Why did four couples put so much money into a building in downtown Berlin? Because they all have a stake in the success of Main Street. The group, BMCP, LLC., is made of of Ed and Kathy Bergeron, Andre and Colette Caron, David and Cindy Morin, and Gerry and Sylvia Poulin.

Two of the couples own businesses on Main Street, the Morins and the Poulins. Their livelihoods are integrally connected to the success of the street. And all of the couples care deeply about the success of the city of Berlin, and of the downtown in particular. So they pooled their money and did something about it.

"This is a demonstration project," Mr. Morin said, "something other people can do too. We need more downtown and this is what we are trying to do."

But, he said, the success of the project was dependent on the mix of the group. BMCP had a group of people comfortable working together, he said, each bringing different skills and expertise to the table. Most important, he said, was everyone trusted each other. Without trust the entire project would have been a failure.

Mr. Morin said he didn't know how much money BMCP had put into the project at this point, but it was all private. They didn't receive any government funding or grants, and the only assistance they are trying to get is a tax deferral from the city. This was four couples investing in a building for themselves, he said, but making "a beneficial investment for the community as a whole."

He said it would take at least five years for BMCP to get back their investment. The apartments will rent for between $725 and $1,000, depending on whether tenants want them furnished or unfurnished. One office in the commercial space on the first floor is occupied, and there are still two or three spaces left, depending on the needs of the tenants. Mr. Morin said they were willing to build to suit.

Mr. Morin said BMCP would be open to selling the building if someone was interested. Were that to happen, he said, he hopes BMCP would then buy a new building on Main Street and continue the process.

"Main Street is still very strong," he said. "It's still very viable. It just needs this type of investment."

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