Cost estimates for the project

are between $6 million

and $8 million.

LEWISTON – Sen. Susan Collins pledged her support Monday for local efforts to make the former St. Dominic’s Regional High School an affordable housing project.

Collins toured the former Lewiston campus Monday with city and housing authority officials. Collins said she would do what she can to get up to $2 million in Housing and Urban Development money set aside for the project.

“We’ve had pretty good luck getting money earmarked for projects in Lewiston and Auburn,” Collins said. “We’ll do what we can, and work to see if there are any other funding sources you can use.”

Jim Dowling, executive director the Lewiston Housing Authority, said he hopes to break ground on the renovation project next spring. Plans call for turning the school’s 37 classrooms into one bedroom apartments for senior citizens. A handful of rooms in the building’s basement would become offices for local community nonprofits and the school’s auditorium would be preserved, becoming a local stage.

“We’ve been investigating this for seven or eight months, and now we’re going to the next level,” Dowling said. “Our next step is to develop the financing package over the next few months. Then, we can move on to developing the details, like drawings of the project, as well as the details of the financing.”

Congressman Michael Michaud toured the building Sunday. It’s still owned by St. Peter’s Catholic Church, but Dowling said the housing authority is prepared to buy the building.

Developer Joe Cloutier, of Realty Resources Chartered, said the project would be expensive. The building has sat mostly empty since December 2001, when the school moved to a bigger, more modern facility in Auburn. Some of the exterior walls will need to be strengthened and the interior will need to be gutted and cleaned, he said.

“Basically, the structure is sound,” Cloutier said. “There are a lot of challenges to be faced inside and out. We’re going to have a lot of work to do.”

Dowling estimated the project would cost between $6 million and $8 million. So far, the housing authority has federal tax credits for the project worth about $3.5 million. Cloutier said the project is also expecting to get Community Development Block Grant and other HUD money through the city of Lewiston. In all, about $5.5 million in financing is ready to go.

“I understand you have a gap of about $1.5 million,” Collins said. “I guess that’s why I’m here.”

Collins praised organizers for attempting the project.

“Not only would we create 37 nice, new apartments for our senior citizens, we help to preserve the heritage of Lewiston,” Collins said. “I think it makes a lot of sense.”

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