LEWISTON — Downtown's iconic Bates Mill Building No. 5 may have a purpose — and a saviour in developer Tom Platz.
Members of Grow L+A, the group hoping to save the building, say they are are ready to pass the work they've done along to the Central Maine developer.
"We're going to keep doing what we've done," said Peter Flanders, vice president of Grow L+A. That includes working with community groups and nonprofits to help guide development of the property.
"Grow L+A will stay on task with those things, but the actual development in the middle becomes Tom's project," Flanders said. "That's the idea, to move it from one hand to the other. That's what he does best."
Grow L+A is scheduled Tuesday night to update the Lewiston City Council on efforts to save the aging sawtooth-roofed building at the corner of Main and Lincoln streets. Later, councilors are scheduled to vote on negotiating an option agreement with Platz to purchase the building.
Tuesday's workshop begins at 6 p.m. in Lewiston City Hall. The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Flanders said it's the last step in Grow L+A's process.
"We are very appreciative that we've had this opportunity," Flanders said. "Now, they can see just how far we got and that we got enough done to make an impression on Tom, on them and on the rest of the community."
The building was designed by American industrial architect Albert Kahn and is one of the first to use reinforced concrete. It has two floors, each covering 145,000 square feet, and a hydroelectrical generation facility in the basement. Construction began in 1912 and wrapped up early in 1914.
The city has owned the building since 1992, and it's been used as storage since 1999. Councilors planned to demolish the building in 2010 but delayed. Last summer's Riverfront Island Master Plan recommended demolishing it and redeveloping the space as park or business development.
Councilors set aside $2.5 million in bonds toward the demolition in their 2012-13 capital plan.
A Rhode Island architect made the building his senior thesis in 2011, and his work caught the interest of local architects and developers, who formed Grow L+A around the idea of preserving and reusing the building. In April, they convinced councilors to give them time to come up with a plan and a developer to renovate the project.
Their time runs out Thursday, Oct. 3.
Plans call for a co-op grocer in the space, along with a health and wellness center, a growing center and business incubator space. In a June status report, the group claimed it had investor commitments for 100,000 square feet of space.
According to the plan, the group would begin renovations of up to $30 million right away — including work on the building's concrete floors and walls and distinctive rooftop windows — and reopen it in 2014.
But Flanders said it's time to hand off the work to a professional developer.
"We've been honest all along with everyone we've negotiated with: This is what we have; this is our organization and what it represents," Flanders said. "But we don't own the building, and we don't have the money or the muscle to do this on our own. However, we have been trying to develop enough interest to put it together for a developer."
Platz has been involved in the nine-building Bates Mill Enterprise Complex since 1996. That's when the city began renovating mill buildings and selling them to Platz and his business partners.
The city negotiated an exit strategy with Platz in 1996, giving him control of the bulk of the complex but not Mill No. 5 and the complex's steam generation plant. Platz has continued renovating the other mill buildings on his own, with the city paying for parking and environmental cleanup.
Platz could not be reached for comment Monday.