LEWISTON — Railroad directors liked what they saw.

The Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Co. board on Wednesday unanimously approved the low bid to renovate the historic former rail station on Lincoln Street. Great Falls Construction of Gorham bid $298,433 for work on the former Grand Trunk Depot.

“The board was thrilled,” said Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council spokesman Calvin Rinck. “Initially, there was some skepticism that any bids would come in under the budgeted amount due to the depot being boarded up the last 25 to 30 years. It needed substantial improvements.”

Great Falls Construction recently wrapped up a project near Kennedy Park for Community Concepts. The board is happy with the quality of its work, Rinck said.

Construction should begin shortly and end this fall. Rinck said an offer had been made to a potential tenant but no lease signed yet. That tenant, if a deal is reached, could spend an additional two months outfitting the interior. A restaurateur had expressed interest in the past.

“Ultimately, the Grand Trunk Depot could be open by the first of the year,” Rinck said.

Four construction companies submitted bids for the project last week. The 112-year-old depot, once called “Lewiston’s Ellis Island,” has been empty for decades, as other plans have fallen through. Funding will largely come from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the city of Lewiston and the railroad company.

“It will only take a few short weeks to get the contract and do the paperwork,” Great Falls Construction owner Jon Smith said in a written statement. “We are looking forward to taking the boards off the windows and turning dirt on this classic building. It’ll take a bit to mobilize, but we’re going to kick it into high gear to get this project moving forward.”

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