LEWISTON — A plan to convert the former Pettingill School lot into five residential lots is off the table for now, councilors were told Tuesday.
City Administrator Ed Barrett said developers St. Laurent and Sons on Tuesday withdrew their plan to tear down the school and build five single-family homes.
"After they finished their full financial analysis, they concluded that there was such a slim profit margin and it would require such upfront investment that they withdrew their proposal," Barrett told city councilors at a workshop meeting Tuesday. "But that does not mean we still don't have a decision to make."
Councilors had scheduled the meeting to discuss the fate of the property and neighborhood efforts to preserve the former school's playground.
Councilors heard from 11 neighbors Tuesday and said they were inclined to keep the playground in place.
Councilors also said they favored selling at least part of the former school property to develop single-family homes around the park.
"There may be some development that brings some revenue in from that property," Councilor John Butler said. "If we demolish it, don't assume it's all going to be a park. That is not what we are saying at this time."
Barrett suggested councilors at least consider demolishing the school, at a cost of $120,000. Proposals to redevelop the building call for costs of $1.2 million or more.
"The general conclusion is that it is pretty much beyond the point that it is economically salvageable," Barrett said.
Councilors are expected to discuss the matter again at their Nov. 20 meeting.
Lewiston officially closed Pettingill Elementary School in 2008, moving students to the newer Geiger Elementary. School Committee members recommended tearing down the building and creating a neighborhood park on the 2.11-acre lot.
Neighbors said that would be fine with them. The playground has since become a community magnet and expanding it would be good.
"It has become a very popular, very important part of our lives, especially because it is the only play facility within walking distance of my house," said Anna Sims-Bartel.
Barrett said councilors would have to grapple with the cost of developing that. He estimated it would cost the city $195,000 to develop the lot as a park — $120,000 for the demolition and $75,000 for fencing, landscaping and site work.
Selling off pieces of the property could defray those costs.
Councilors said they were open to all ideas and would wait to see if other proposals came forward before their Nov. 20 meeting.