The future of Bates Mill No. 5: What's your vote? A Sun Journal reader project

Should it be home to a new hydro-powered trolley?

Or Universal Studios East?

Or Lewiston Middle School?

Just some of your ideas.

With Bates Mill No. 5's future in flux, two weeks ago the Sun Journal asked readers for ideas on what ought to become of the building and the land beneath it. The fate of the almost 100-year-old, city-owned mill is once again uncertain after a referendum earlier this month that would have approved a casino for the spot failed to win statewide support.

More than 70 readers, ages 10 to 81, sent in suggestions: Some amazingly creative, some perfect in their simplicity, only one illegal (brothel, anyone?) and one too colorful to print (think angry political potshot). We intended to winnow the suggestions down to 12, but, we couldn't: Too many ideas were good — or downright interesting. For space reasons and ease in voting, we pared down duplicates, giving credit to first responders. Ideas for a science center, fun park, indoor yard sale and business incubator were popular. We edited the rest for clarity and space. (Whether credited or not, many thanks to everyone who sent in a suggestion.)

Now it's up to you.

Please pick your five favorites among the list of 38. We'll take the top vote-getters to a panel of economic development experts for their thoughts: Could that work here? Why or why not?

After that? Well, all good ideas start with a dream. As soon as we hear about plans to make one of the ideas a reality, we'll let you know.

Votes are due by Dec. 7.

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Richard Fochtmann's picture

A People-Centered, rather than Big Business, Project

While I can understand Mr. Heller's fears that the project has to be a "money maker" for the renovators, my wife and I agree that:

a) Downtown Lewiston has a lot of property that is suitable for business development, IF Downtown can attract the customers that they need. Therefore, having MORE commercial space in the mill takes away the focus from re-developing Lisbon St.

b) If the mill could support some ventures with a focus by combining a few like-minded projects, such as technology center, incubator hub, and re/training center, OR senior living, YMCA-extension, small neighborhood medical center run by CMMC, and some class-room space for either the schools when needed as in #23, or used as training space such as #11 or #15

c) If the mill is not large enough for the above, then some venture that attracts a lot of workers who would lunch and shop on Lisbon St., such as #18 or #34

We feel that anything that is a draw for a lot of people would be much better than adding more enterprises that attract few. An artist loft would be nice, but mostly for the artist and a few patrons, nor could artists afford the upkeep. On the other hand, a mall of more shops would leave Lisbon Street in the same state it is in.

Frank Heller's picture

Quite a creative outpouring, but where are the $$$?

My experience as an entrepreneur and working with many of Maine's leading developers would indicate that successful developments relocate successful, i.e. those ready to expand, enterprises from a house or 'bad' location into a larger one with little or no increase in the Cost of doing business.

Most developers have business rentals that they can market a large development to and provide incentives including 'design out' financing.

In essence, they consolidate and facilitate the growth of existing businesses. Hopefully, many will have some kind of manuf. and export capability.

Goals of energy self-sufficiency using the every flowing Androscoggin river isn't new; but it's time to realize Maine has enough hydro power to make commercial power available at a lower cost than the rest of the U.S.


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