LEWISTON — It’s clear that the former Intown Manor building hasn’t been used in years.

Hallways and rooms are littered with evidence of the building’s former life as a nursing home — old magazines, time cards, notebooks about patients’ diets and broken shutters. Paint is peeling in many rooms and windows are dirty or broken.

 “We know the roof leaks, too, and the basement’s been taking on some water,” said Jim Dowling, executive director of the Lewiston Housing Authority. “But overall, the building is in surprisingly good shape. The structure itself is good.”

Crews are set to begin interior work next month to turn the building at 81 Ash St. into 32 apartments for seniors. The project is expected to cost $7.6 million.

“What’s really interesting about this project is that this is a National Historic Register property and there have been several attempts to rehabilitate it over time,” said Mark McComas, Lewiston’s acting economic development director. “They’ve all started with the best of intentions, but I think it’s a very challenging project for a private investor.”

The project will combine state and federal low-income and historic-building tax credits, HOME fund money from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development and a city tax-increment financing district to make ends meet.

The three-and-a-half-story brick building was built in 1892 and used as an orphanage by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception until about 1973, when it served as a boarding home for a few years. It became Intown Manor and was operated as an assisted-living facility until it closed in 2005. It’s been closed since, as developers tried to make the project work.

The Developers Collaborative of Portland is doing the work for the Lewiston Housing Authority. Partner Kevin Bunker said the closing is set for the second week of February, with work beginning right away.

“This is going to be a total gut of the building, going down right to the walls and then putting them back,” Bunker said. “But we want to preserve the historic character of the building, so we are paying special attention to that.”

Bunker said crews would work to preserve the tin ceilings throughout the building, as well as the original hallways and stairways.

“We’re doing what we can to keep those things special, and just bring them into new use,” he said.

The end result will be 26 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units, renting for $575 and $700, respectively. The building will be geared to senior citizens.

“We’ve put in a few new units, but we continue to see a need for designated housing for seniors in our community,” McComas said. “The need is still out there.”

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