In rebuttal, Edmund Burke: Need fewer buildings downtown

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Maura Murphy raised some valid concerns in her guest column (Oct. 20). She advocates for rebuilding some of the housing lost to recent fires, and does so with solid arguments. Vacant lots are a concern, as is lost tax revenue. And the mean-spiritedness of some in our community is bothersome.

But there is another side to this issue.

The downtown residential area consists mostly of aging buildings stacked in like cord wood. Many are poorly maintained and some are virtually uninhabitable. It is a breeding ground for trouble and is attracting people from other states who are used to living in such conditions. And I am not referring to “illegal” immigrants, which is code for our Somali population. I find them to be courteous, respectful people who are here to work and make better lives for themselves.

I work daily in the downtown area and have been a landlord there in the past. During the past 35 years, I have seen many properties lost to fire or demolition. Some have been rebuilt and some older ones have been rehabilitated. But one common theme prevails — these buildings very quickly fall into disrepair. Even some that appear to be well maintained on the outside are poorly maintained on the inside.

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So what do we do?

The image that a city conveys to investors and outsiders is very important. A rundown inner city is detrimental to growth and to its  own self image.

It is my opinion that Phyllis St. Laurent’s proposal to rebuild should be rejected in order to create more open space. It is also time to “thin the herd” of those run-down buildings. It is not all about taxes, but rather should Lewiston strive for a clean, modern downtown area with lots of open space.

The question of how to deal with all the empty lots is one that needs discussion. But, in the meantime, a moratorium on new construction in the downtown area should be implemented until the city has developed a plan on how to deal with the area.

Lewiston needs fewer buildings downtown, not more.

Edmund Burke, Auburn

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