Bennett eyes incentives for street

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LEWISTON – City money could spur new development along Lisbon Street, City Administrator Jim Bennett said Tuesday.

Bennett suggested setting aside between $500,000 and $1 million to encourage developers to build high quality, three-story office buildings along Lisbon Street between Main Street and Adams Avenue. That includes the lots that once contained the Kora, Cressey, Greely and New England Furniture buildings. Those buildings were damaged by fire Dec. 20 and have been demolished.

“But we have a lot of vacant lots along the entire corridor, and I propose that it’s time to bring in the needed incentives to make redevelopment possible,” Bennett told councilors.

Those lots won’t be developed otherwise, he said. The going rate for commercial rents in Lewiston is about $11 per square foot. Developers need rents of $15 per square foot for new construction to make sense.

“They’re never going to do it on their own if they can’t make any money at it,” Bennett said.

Incentives could include $5 per square-foot credits for each new three-story building, as well as possible tax breaks.

“It could cost $500,000 or it could really take off and cost $1 (million) to $2 million,” Bennett said.

That money would be included as part of the city’s annual capital improvements budget. The development plan was included at the end of Bennett’s capital improvements discussion at Tuesday night’s City Council workshop meeting.

Capital spending

Everything is in the discussion stages at this point, Bennett said. He expects councilors to begin debating his redevelopment plan in the next few weeks. Councilors will see the capital projects plan again in March when they begin working on the fiscal year 2008 budget.

Overall, Bennett’s capital improvements budget calls for $1.8 million from property tax revenues and about $14 million in city, school, water and sewer district borrowing.

That money would pay for projects all over the city, including $2.2 million in operating costs at the Bates Mill, $1.7 million in buildings and grounds work for city properties, $825,000 in upgrades and repairs at the Montello and MacMahon schools and Lewiston High School, as well as $1.8 million upgrades at the landfill and $120,000 in work at the Colisee.

Demolitions

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Bennett’s budget also sets aside $500,000 to demolish the Libbey Mill.

“That’s always been our responsibility,” Bennett said. “I’d hoped the Island Point project would have been farther along.”

Developers hope to redevelop the old Cowan Mill and redevelop the site around the old Libbey Mill for a hotel and condominium project.

Longer term, Bennett said he’s also set aside $3 million in 2009 to pay for demolishing Bates Mill No. 5. That structure has been targeted as a possible site for a convention center, but Bennett said it costs the city $460,000 per year to maintain it.

“Maybe it’s time for the community to put aside the dream if nothing is going to happen there,” Bennett said.

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