LEWISTON – You can tell a building matters to a community by the way the community reacts to renovations, developer David Clem said.

That’s the case with the Dominican Block, the four-story building he’s renovating on the corner of Lincoln and Cedar streets.

“I’ve had more people stop by than any other project, talking about what the building means to them,” Clem said. “They say they used to go to school here, or go to a shop in the building. It really means a lot to them.”

It means a lot to the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board, as well. Clem’s Dominican Block was one of three buildings recognized for renovation efforts. The board also recognized an entire district around Main and Frye street. That area, including parts of Frye, Main and College streets near the Bates College campus, earned a National Register of Historic Places designation this year.

Clem said Thursday he was midway through his renovation project, the one-time home of the Dominican Fathers. Built in 1882, it housed retail on its lower floors, a school on the middle and an open space on the top floor.

“That’s the part that you fall in love with, even when it’s full of 3,000 pigeons,” Clem said.

Striking a balance

He’s been walking a regulatory tightrope since he began the work in 2007.

“It’s an old building, so the fire inspectors and (Americans with Disability Act) rules want the building brought up to date,” he said. “That’s the exact opposite of what the historic board wants.”

It’s worth it, however.

“The people that are working for me are having to understand that a building like this represents quality and a level of craftsmanship that is not standard or economically feasible these days,” he said.

He plans to continue fire safety and ADA renovations this summer. He has a plan for how to use the building, but he’s keeping it to himself for the moment.

“Whatever is going to happen, it’s going to be up to this community,” Clem said. “I’m just in charge of the bones. It’s going to be up to the community to give it a body and bring it to life.”

The board also recognized Community Concepts for building the Bates Street Senior Housing project so that it matches the architectural and design theme of its Kennedy Park neighborhood. The Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s Church, which hosted Thursday’s event, was also recognized for preservation efforts.

The event was to mark May as National Preservation Month, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. That’s a nonprofit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them.

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