LEWISTON — Councilors spared Bates Mill No. 5 for another six months, giving Grow L+A until Oct. 3 to come back with a fully thought-out plan to resurrect the building.
"In effect, what that says is that on Oct. 3, we want the person with the big checkbook to show up and to be prepared to write a check with a lot of zeros," City Administrator Ed Barrett said. "We need to know indeed that there is interest and capability in moving the project forward."
Councilors voted 4-3 to set two deadlines. The group needs to give councilors letters of interest from investors committing to use 7,500 square feet of space in the renovated building, as well as updated financial forecasts and costs by July 3.
The final details need to be worked out by Oct. 3, with investors ready to begin renovations.
Councilors John Butler, Doreen Christ and Richard Desjardins voted against extending the deadline.
It's a tough schedule, but Grow L+A Vice President Peter Flanders said they can do it.
"These are all mutually agreeable benchmarks that we discussed with city staff," Flanders said. "Now we need to achieve our goal, and it's a big one. We have a lot to do in three months. We've been working hard for a long time. Tonight is the moment, and now we'll take a break and hit it hard for another three months."
The group met with councilors behind closed doors at their March 12 meeting to explain their Five-2-Farm proposal.
According to the plan, the group would secure ownership of the building this year — either on their own or along with the unnamed investors. They would begin renovations and reopen it in 2014 — 100 years after it was first built.
The space would include retail and light industrial uses, food processing, a year-round farmers market, community space and loft-style apartments.
Councilor Butler said he was skeptical.
"If Grow L+A thinks this is a good venture, No. 1, buy it now," Butler said. "No. 2, pay taxes on it. No. 3, don't ask the city for TIFs."
Councilor Donald D'Auteuil was more optimistic, but he said the Oct. 3 deadline was nonnegotiable.
"There will not be extensions," D'Auteuil said. "We've dealt with this for a long time, and I'd love to see the project work. Just don't come back asking for other extensions."
The building was designed by architect Albert Kahn, a renowned American industrial designer, and is one of the first to use reinforced concrete. It has two floors, each covering 145,000 square feet, and its own hydroelectric generation facility in the basement. Construction began in 1912 and wrapped up in early 1914.
The city has owned the building since 1992, and it has been used as storage since 1999. Councilors planned to demolish the building in 2010 but delayed the decision. Last summer's Riverfront Island Master Plan recommended demolishing it and using the space as park or business development.
Councilors had agreed to put aside $2.5 million in bonds toward the demolition in their capital plan.