May 5, 2010
By Keith Edwards firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA -- The former Bonanza restaurant, closed and deteriorating on Western Avenue since 2005, is likely to be replaced by a new credit union branch.
Gene Ardito, an Augusta native and president of cPort Credit Union, said his company intends to tear down the old building and replace it with a new credit union branch, if the plan is approved by the Augusta Planning Board.
The credit union currently has a branch in leased space at 22 Western Ave. That branch would close and its eight employees would move to the new building.
"I think it's a great spot and we'd eliminate a real eyesore from Western Avenue," Ardito said.
"We're demolishing the Bonanza and are going to build a very nice new branch," he said. "We're going to do a lot of landscaping. It'll be a little square oasis in the sea of parking lot that's there now. I honestly think it's going to change the dynamic of that whole intersection, which I hope will help the neighborhood."
The former restaurant at 399 Western Ave., with its flaking red-painted roof and pot-holed parking lot, closed in 2005.
Ardito said the credit union is attracted to the spot because it provides easy, safe access to customers thanks in part to a traffic light at its entrance, has a high traffic count, could improve the neighborhood, and would be owned -- not leased -- by the credit union.
"When I was looking for sites on Western Avenue, the Bonanza site seemed perfect," said Ardito, who grew up in Augusta, attended Cony High School and now lives in Portland. "It's got easy access and safety for our members, which is very important. It's a convenient location with easy access to the highway, and has a very high traffic count, which is good for us. It's also close to the auto dealers, and we're a very big auto lender."
In addition to Augusta, cPort Credit Union also has branches in Portland and Scarborough.
It was previously known as a government employees credit union, but changed its name to cPort some five years ago. Membership is now open to anyone living or working in Kennebec, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York counties.
The credit union has had a branch in Augusta for some 50 years and was founded nearly 80 years ago.
The credit union has not yet closed on the property, but Ardito said they have a purchase agreement in place.
The purchase agreement on file with the city indicates a purchase price of $370,000.
The project is scheduled to go to the Augusta Planning Board for minor development review May 11.
Ardito said Augusta-based Coffin Engineering is working on the project, and the company will seek bids from local contractors based in central Maine to construct the building.
He hopes work will start soon, and to be in the new building by the end of the year.
cPort has 11,000 members in Maine and about 13,000 total.
The new building, according to application materials filed with the city, would be one story and 2,575 square feet, compared to the 4,835 square-foot Bonanza building.