LEWISTON — An effort to save the aging Bates Mill Building No. 5 and breathe new life into the area around it has a grocer, a health and wellness center and huge support among the community, according to organizers.

“We are talking to developers, we are talking with the money. It’s all in the stages of negotiations,” said Peter Flanders, vice president of Grow L+A and the Five-2-Farm effort. “But there is a lot of energy. There are people who want this. They are coming to us now, instead of us coming to them. I guess that’s one of the biggest changes.”

Flanders, Grow L+A President Gabrielle Russell and members of the group presented a progress report and round-table discussion Tuesday afternoon at the Lewiston Public Library on their efforts to renovate the massive sawtooth-roofed building.

“We have funding to move the project forward,” Flanders said. “We have done structural studies, engineering studies, architectural studies and we are funding all of those. It is coming along.”

Tuesday’s meeting was as much an opportunity for the group to gauge public support as it was to update the project’s status. Shanna Rogers, who led Tuesday’s meeting, said the group had heard from investors. Now they wanted to hear from Twin Cities residents.

“This is not a couple of people in a room figuring out what we are going to do,” Rogers said. “It’s a group of people based in this community, sharing values across the community, saying ‘What part of this can I own? What part of this can I take to make this a reality?’ That’s why this is different.”


Councilors voted in April to spare the building from demolition long enough to let Grow L+A get its plans finalized and find investors. They gave the group until July 3 to give councilors letters of interest from investors committing to use 75,000 square feet of space in the renovated building as well as updated financial forecasts.

Flanders said the group filed the confidential report in June, showing investor commitment for 100,000 square feet of space as well as financial forecasts.

He declined to name individual investors, but said they include a grocer, the health and wellness center, the growing center and business incubator space.

Flanders said it would cost between $20 million and $30 million to renovate the building according to the current plan. That would involve replacing all of the windows on the walls and the roof and repairing the building’s concrete walls, floors and beams.

“The project, with the partners that we have today, would cost somewhere in the mid $20 millions,” he said. “It does not mean that it will stay there. It depends on who the end users are and how much revenue we can generate.”

According to the plan, the group would secure ownership of the building this year — either by themselves or with the unnamed investors. They’d begin renovating and reopen it in 2014 — 100 years after it was first built.


The space would include retail and light industrial uses, food processing, a year-round farmers market, community space and loft-style apartments.

The group has until Oct. 3 to come back with a fully thought-out plan to resurrect the building. Flanders said that’s a tough deadline.

“We might be ready to go in September, we might be ready in November,” he said. “I can’t imagine the council will throw the project away over a difference of a month.”

Flanders said it’s too soon to begin naming potential investors, but insisted they are real.

“The deadline had a purpose,” he said. “The council did not want us jerking them around, and we get that. However, we have proven ourselves now. We just want to finish it now.”

The building was designed by architect Albert Kahn, a renowned American industrial designer and is one of the first to use reinforced concrete. It has two floors, each covering 145,000 square feet, and its own hydroelectric generation facility in the basement. Construction began in 1912 and wrapped up in early 1914.

The city has owned the building since 1992 and it’s been used as storage since 1999. Councilors planned to demolish the building in 2010 but delayed. Last summer’s Riverfront Island Master Plan recommended demolishing it and redeveloping the space as a park or for business development.

Councilors put aside $2.5 million in bonds toward the demolition in their 2012-13 capital plan.


Comments are no longer available on this story