LEWISTON – Developer Travis Soule got a reprieve Tuesday when the bank that holds the loan on his 134 Main St. building canceled a foreclosure on the property.

“We are in the process of pulling a rabbit out of the hat,” said Soule, whose development projects in Lewiston and Auburn have run into trouble. Soft housing markets and tight credit have threatened his affordable housing project in Auburn and the former Island Point project in Lewiston, of which 134 Main St. was to be the first phase.

“We have 30 days to come back with a restructuring plan,” he said. “We have struggled, but now the building is fully occupied.”

New tenants – a martial arts academy, a financial services company and a church – joined Espo’s Trattoria in the former Central Maine Power Co. building. Camden National Bank holds the mortgage on the building, which is home to five commercial condominiums. Two of those condos are owned by Espo’s Trattoria and were not part of the foreclosure.

Aside from full occupancy at 134 Main St., Soule unloaded a dozen downtown rental properties to generate cash and to streamline his business model.

“We grew very quickly,” said Soule of his Solo Properties, which he launched in 2004. “Now we’re trying to deal with transactional business and get out of the day-to-day management.”

Soule held dozens of rental properties in Lewiston and Auburn under names such as LA Italian Properties and Pine Properties. In June, he sold the holdings under those two names to Joseph Dunne, a local landlord, for $3.3 million.

Among the Lewiston properties sold were 176 Pine St., 191-193 Pine St., 200 Pine St., 82 Howard St., 86 Howard St., 106-108 Walnut St., 68 Birch St., 195 Bartlett St., 190 Bartlett St., 111 Ash St., 107-109 Birch St., 182 Blake St.; and one property, 9 Maple St., in Auburn.

The buildings are all multi-family, with as many as 24 units under one roof.

Dunne said he intended to upgrade the properties and rent them out. He chose to buy the buildings in June because Soule made them available.

Although the purchase price exceeds the assessed value on the buildings by more than a $1 million, Dunne said it was deceptive to assume he overpaid for the properties.

“There were some assumptions of loans and I got credit from the lender,” he said. “So the sale price wasn’t the sale price.”

He said the typical per-unit price for downtown rentals is in the mid-$20,000 range.

“On a lot of the units, I paid $21-$22 (thousand) per unit,” he said.

Tom Maynard, code officer for the city, said Dunne’s expanded holdings were good news. He said Dunne was a conscientious landlord, who responds quickly and effectively to city requests.

“When I call him, he deals with it,” said Maynard. He said he had observed Dunne’s staff insulating several of the new buildings and doing other weatherizing projects.

Soule said he was hopeful that the year’s grace he got from Auburn city councilors this month on the Stevens Mill affordable housing project would give him the time he needs to make that project whole. The city had begun to foreclose on the 20-unit complex for nonpayment of taxes, but then councilors unanimously agreed Aug. 18 to give Soule more time so that the city could recoup its $250,000 affordable housing loan. Soule also worked out a forbearance with Northeast Bank for the money owed there.

“I’ve lowered the prices; they’re beautiful units that are selling for under $100,000,” said Soule. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to execute our plan with the bank and we’ll still have our shirts on when it’s all over and done.”



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