LEWISTON – L/A Arts will abandon plans to build a new Lisbon Street office and gallery.
The arts group surrendered the empty 84 Lisbon St. building to the Lewiston City Council Tuesday night, and asked to have a $295,000 pledge forgiven. That was a pledge the arts group had made to help pay for building Courthouse Plaza.
“It’s like an albatross around our necks,” said L/A Arts Chairman John Oxman. “The city will be able to do more with that building than we ever could.”
The arts group had planned to renovate the building, making the ground floor an art gallery and the second floor offices.
It had paid $240,000 for renovations. That included fixing the roof, doing electrical work and building an elevator shaft. The new elevator is on site, Oxman said, and waiting to be installed.
“It’s in the best interest for the building, for L/A Arts and for the city,” Oxman said. “We have no doubt the city will find a use for this building and be able bring someone in, and make tax revenue generating property.”
Lewiston purchased the building at 84 Lisbon St. in 1999 and planned to raze it to clear space for the Courthouse Plaza. Once two adjacent buildings were razed, however, they found they had more than enough space. L/A Arts asked to take over the building, planning to raise $1.2 million to renovate it.
Lewiston moved forward with plans to build the neighboring plaza, but work bids came in nearly $300,000 higher than the city had budgeted. L/A Arts agreed to make up the difference, reimbursing the city up to $600,000. The city dedicated the plaza in 2003.
Oxman said L/A Arts is no longer interested in owning buildings or galleries.
“We are a program provider,” he said. “That is the key for us.”