AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Thursday gave initial approval to a bill meant to clarify the state’s historic preservation tax credit law.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, has ramifications for efforts to redevelop the historic Bates Mill No. 5 in downtown Lewiston.

“People have been hesitant about investing in large projects because they aren’t sure what their tax credit will be,” Craven said in a prepared statement. “This bill will clear up that confusion and allow projects like Mill No. 5 to go forward.”

According to Craven and proponents of the bill, current law is vague in defining what constitutes a project involving a large property, leading to uncertainty as to the size of the benefit a developer could receive if it redevelops a building in stages.

The bill makes clear that a project can be a portion of a building and the state tax credit for redevelopment can be claimed over several years, Craven said.

Bates Mill No. 5 was designed by American industrial architect Albert Kahn and is one of the first to use reinforced concrete. It has two floors, each covering 145,000 square feet, and a hydroelectric generation facility in the basement. Construction began in 1912 and wrapped up early in 1914.

The city has owned the building since 1992, and it has been used as storage since 1999. Councilors planned to demolish the building in 2010 but delayed it. In 2012 the city’s Riverfront Island Master Plan recommended demolishing it and redeveloping the space as a park or for business.

The building and its saw-toothed roof is an iconic landmark and served as the workplace for generations of people.

In September 2013, members of Grow L+A, the group hoping to save the building, passed the work they’ve done along to developer Tom Platz of Auburn.

The bill, LD 1661, now faces votes in the House and Senate.


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