Lewiston business owners speak out about Lisbon Street project

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LEWISTON — City officials on Tuesday heard from business owners unhappy about work scheduled for Lisbon Street next year.

The $1 million “preservation” project will result in street closures. Sections of Lisbon Street from Chestnut Street to Main Street will be milled down and resurfaced. Street signals and crosswalks will be upgraded and sidewalks will be replaced with brown concrete slabs. The work is set to take place between May and October 2015.

The work will involve tearing up sidewalks outside businesses.

Eric Agren, owner of Fuel Restaurant, a modern bistro on Lisbon Street, said he cared about all of the businesses that have opened on the street in the past couple of years.

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“Millions and millions and millions of dollars — the highest concentration of investment in the city of Lewiston is on that block,” Agren said. “And they’re all brand-new businesses and it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard.”

The meeting was attended by engineers Ryan Barnes and Richard Burnham, and John Rodrick of the Maine Department of Transportation, project manager for the street work.

“Communication is going to be big prior to this project, working with the business owners,” Burnham said.

Agren thanked city officials for making the investment in Lisbon Street.

The street milling would take place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., but business owners were concerned about how the work would affect vehicular and foot traffic.

“I just hope you are thoughtful about the timing of what these businesses require because all of them are operating at night,” he said.

“I’ve been there eight years and I’m better off, but I care for and am afraid for all these businesses that have just pumped so much money into their young businesses and they’re losing money every day already — it’s tough,” he said.

He listed the new businesses: “Forage, food; (Fuel), food; Marche, food; Orchid, food; Mother India, food; Cupcakery, food. I can go on and on, and those require different hours than what you’re used to.

“So, I ask you to take that seriously into consideration,” he said, “because if you put those businesses out of business, your tax base is going to go.”

Mike Dostie of J. Dostie Jewlers told the engineers his building is on a wide swath of sidewalk, and changes from the pavers to a monotone concrete will affect the overall aesthetic of his business.

Dostie described what he saw in the plans as “a little line of brick that shows pretty much where our building starts and then an ocean of gray.”

“Is there anything else that you anticipate doing,” Dostie asked, “or is this going to be the most bland sidewalk ever?”

Dostie asked the engineers if they had any thoughts on raising the aesthetic value of the project.

Rodrick responded jokingly, “Well, you have to remember we’re engineers, so, no.”

Dostie’s comments drew discussion about including other features that the MDOT does not allow in its funding, such as grass plots or esplanades that landscape architects could seek funding for through the City Council.

Tammie Grieshaber of Lyceum Gallery asked about a greater restructuring of Lisbon Street, one that was not on the table for this federal funding.

Burnham said Lewiston cannot afford to reconstruct and this fleeting federal funding was the city’s best opportunity to put another eight to 10 years of life back in the street.

Burnham described how storm-water, curbs, Americans with Disabilities laws and federal regulations accompany something even as simple as moving a curb a few inches.

The Lewiston Department of Public Works plans to hold more meetings in hopes of hearing from all affected businesses before the project begins.

dmcintire@sunjournal.com

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