The Auburn-Lewiston YMCA would give some pre- and post-op patients free, short-term gym memberships to encourage healthy recoveries and would look to double its membership with the draw of a massive pool and expanded child care.

There would be a one-sixth-mile indoor walking track on the second floor, a boutique grocery store on the first and as many as three times the parking spaces outside.

The hopes and plans for the mill, and how different missions weave together, are becoming clearer as the group behind the mill’s redevelopment asks the city for a little more time.

The Lewiston City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to give developer Tom Platz and his group another year to work out the financial details.

Platz said he’s still shooting for a 200,000-square-foot lease commitment before he can start the $70 million project to revamp the 100-year-old, 350,000-square -foot mill.

He’s getting close — and betting his own funds on its success.


“I think it will happen. We’ll make it happen. But we do need the time to do it,” Platz said in an interview Tuesday with the head of Central Maine Healthcare and YMCA board chairman in advance of the vote. “There won’t be another center like this in the state, maybe in New England.”

Central Maine Healthcare and the YMCA have expressed interest in roughly 75,000 square feet each.

Healthcare CEO Peter Chalke expects his board to vote on a firm lease agreement in the next 30 to 60 days. YMCA Chairman John Emerson said his board is on the same track.

Last year, leaders from the hospital and the Y visited other hospital-Y partnerships in Des Moines and Indianapolis and came away inspired by how they could work together in Bates Mill No. 5.

“When we explained to those centers what we envision, every one of them said, ‘Wow, we don’t have all that yet,'” Chalke said. “We’re not just putting medical office space in this building; we’re putting medical office space that can absolutely use the facilities of the Y next door.”

Sports medicine, outpatient physical and occupational therapy, the bariatric weight management program, pain management and rheumatology departments would all move into the revamped mill.


Using weight-loss surgery as one example, right now a doctor will make sure a patient has an exercise program to follow post-op, “then he’ll see the patient in three months and he just prays that they did it,” Chalke said. “Now, the prescription would be to the Y.” 

The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing satellite, in the early design stages, would act as a resource center for people who aren’t facing cancer but want more information about health-related topics.

“(Patrick Dempsey’s) first priority was providing support for the cancer patients and their families while they’re going through the cancer journey,” Chalke said. “His other strategy was wellness. He also loves the mills and converting the mills rather than tearing them down.”

The cost of leasing space in Bates Mill No. 5 is comparable to other office space, according to Chalke. His board has been fully supportive so far, both because of the plans and the location.

“They saw the benefit of medical space and collaboration with the Y,” Chalke said. “They also see saving that building as a very positive thing for this community. It’s right there; it’s the entrance to this community. If there’s a mill worth saving, I think it’s that one.”

Emerson, YMCA board chairman, said in addition to working with CMMC, the Y would have gym space, more room for its swim program with an upgrade to an eight-lane, 25-yard-long pool, and an expanded child care program.


“The vision is, it’ll be the Y and the hospital, but it’s going to be a community center,” Emerson said. “You come over the bridge from Auburn to Lewiston and you look off to the right, what this is going to be when we finish it, it is going to be a knock-out. It’s really going to put us on the map.”

The YMCA has 2,500 members now. He hopes to see 5,000 with the extra space and offerings. 

Platz estimated that the renovation would be an 18- to 20-month project and said he can start to pursue financing as soon as he has enough leases in hand.

“We’re talking with enough people that we don’t think that will be that far off,” he said. “I’d like to think we’ll start construction this year, but this is a big project. It takes six to eight months to put together a $70 million loan package. Just to get this idea here, we’re burning through about $45,000 a month, just to shepherd it along. It’s not an uncomplicated process.”

Platz said an unnamed company is interested in 10,000 square feet of office space and a bakery headed by a 20-year-old Lewiston woman is interested in another 10,000 square feet.

He has another out-of-state company interested in 20,000 to 30,000 square feet visiting in two weeks.

It takes time and patience, he said. But he’s feeling confident in the difference it will make in the Twin Cities.

“We’re not only fighting just the logistics of building financing,” Platz said. “Everybody knows that we’re trying to rebuild Auburn and Lewiston and get people to recognize us as a place to come do business. So that’s part of this whole scenario.” 

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