“Riverfront Island” is the land bounded by the upper canal and Canal Street to the east, Cedar Street on the south, and the Androscoggin River to the west and the north. Entirely bound by water, it truly is an island. In the heart of Maine’s second largest city, it is a unique resource that has the potential to be the centerpiece for downtown redevelopment. The Androscoggin River, Great Falls of the Androscoggin, 1.5 miles of canals, and historic architecture combine to form a unique asset.

The area encompasses 77 acres, including a mix of commercial, residential, hospitality and green spaces. There are four public parks offering a variety of passive and active recreational opportunities. There are three former textile mills encompassing a total of 1.8-million-square-feet. There are 1,256 public parking spaces.

With water frontage, high visibility, and 26,000 cars per day passing through on Main Street, the existing concentration of public and private services within the downtown makes Riverfront Island one of the most desirable redevelopment areas in the city.

In 2012, Lewiston hired the award-winning planning, architectural and preservation consulting firm Goody Clancy to lead a multi-disciplinary, market-based master planning effort. Stakeholders and citizens were engaged, with more than 100 people participating in each of the public sessions.

The project was guided by a singular vision — that a great river, once harnessed to produce the power that drew industry to the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn, can now again be the spark that defines the communities. The plan outlines how the riverfront can become the region’s great urban destination, a place for recreation, cultural activities, work and urban living.

Four closely related goals guide this master plan:

1. Tap the power of the river through development of a riverwalk and improved water access to enhance quality of life and to support economic development.

2. Attract a vital mix of uses, including housing, through continued reuse of historic buildings and thoughtful new development that bring new life and activity to the area.

3. Make the district more walkable to ensure that Riverfront Island functions as a cohesive urban destination where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

4. Insist on quality in both public and private investment — to attract desired businesses, residents and visitors, so that the riverfront grows as a place of community pride.

The Riverfront Island Master Plan was awarded the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association’s “2012 Plan of the Year.”

Progress is already being made on projects referenced in the plan. Creation of The Lofts at Bates Mill, a 48-unit loft-style mill conversion was completed in November 2012 and was fully leased several months ahead of schedule. Construction of a 90-room Hampton Inn is scheduled to begin this summer, as are improvements to Simard Payne Park.

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