Grow L+A to release report on Bates Mill project

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LEWISTON — A group’s plans for making the Bates Mill Building No. 5 a food hub and business incubator should begin going public later this week.

Shanna Cox, president of the Grow L+A board, said the group plans to release a report about Central Maine’s food economy by the end of the week, followed by a series of meetings to discuss their plans.

“We are trying to put together some really great material,” Cox said. “We’ll have some architectural renderings about what the outside of the mill will look like. We are reaching out to all of the tenants to get a final OK to put names out there. As well, we want to show information like jobs created, jobs relocated, dollars invested and potential tax base increases. These are things people want to know.”

The group has been working to save the building since 2012, and developer Tom Platz has been a part of it since 2013.

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Grow L+A announced plans in February to turn the massive building into a business center with multiple uses. Uses could include a co-op grocery store, a health and wellness center, a growing center and business incubator space.

The Auburn-Lewiston YMCA joined the effort in February as well, announcing its plans to locate a state-of-the-art aquatics and fitness center with room for 5,000 members in the building.

Cox said Grow L+A has been especially interested in the food preparation and grocery aspects and has hired New York City-based food consultants Karp Resources to study its plans and how it will fit into Central Maine’s food economy.

They plan to release the Karp Resources report this week, she said.

The release will be followed by a series of invitation-only planning sessions with interested parties, set to begin Sept. 4

“These will be hosted by our board members, in our kitchens and our living rooms,” she said. “These are more intimate conversations we are looking to have with the stakeholders in our community.”

Interested groups could include local farmers and gardeners, area business owners and managers, residents, elected officials and health care leaders.

Grow L+A plans to detail its plans at those meetings, culminating in a public review at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Franco-American Heritage Center

“Part of our goal is to let people know the results of our report and get updates to them about what we are doing in the mill,” she said. “The second goal is find out what they think could be, what kind of possibilities they’d like to see based on what they know.”

People interested in attending one of the planning sessions should contact Cox at 207-615-2025 or register on the Grow L+A website, www.growla.org.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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