Jonathan LaBonte’s column (May 10) about downtown investments was off the mark, and his complaint about the Vincent Square redevelopment is premised on erroneous information.
He cites a “$5 million investment” in the former Vincent bottling plant for conversion to housing, which is roughly double the construction cost. LaBonte may have drawn this conclusion from a recent Sun Journal article by Scott Taylor that cited a $2.5 million loan from Bangor Savings and $2.5 million in tax credits. The $2.5 million from Bangor Savings is a temporary construction loan, which will be replaced by privately funded tax credits, not added to the tax credits.
I agree completely that private investment in downtowns is desirable. But where would New Auburn’s downtown be right now without the beautiful restoration of the historic Barker Mill, and to a lesser extent, the rehabilitation of the former Gino’s Pizza building on South Main Street, as well as the conversion of the old Lepage Bakery into the Boys and Girls Club? For that matter, where would downtown Auburn be without the Androscoggin County Building, Auburn Public Library, the Roak Block and Auburn Hall?
A number of different developers had tried and failed to find a re-use for the old Vincent Bottling Plant. Because of a small lot and restrictive parking requirements, the highest and best feasible re-use for this building is housing.
Would LaBonte rather see the building continue to sit vacant, or be attractively renovated and pay more in taxes?    
Richard S. Whiting, director
Auburn Housing Authority

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