Lisbon Street condo’s top price leads continuing demand for high-end housing.

LEWISTON — For sale: 5,500 square feet of living space that’s been featured in Down East Magazine, with an outdoor hot tub overlooking Auburn and one bathroom that is said to have once been a Lewiston mayor’s office, with office hours still on the door.

The most expensive home currently on the market in Lewiston-Auburn — asking $599,000 — is in the heart of downtown, on the second floor, on Lisbon Street.

Phil Jean, who lived there for three years, believes he’ll get his asking price.

“I think it’s an incredible deal,” he said. “If you were to sell the same space in Portland, it would be double the price; we did some market analysis.”

The trend to live downtown — which started when Eric Agren opened the French restaurant Fuel in 2006 and built the condominium Jean has up for sale — is still going strong a decade later.

Just down the street, the Hartley Block project is due to break ground later this year, bringing 63 units of mixed-market housing.


And last month, DaVinci’s Eatery owner Jules Patry, who also lives downtown, bought 199 Lisbon St. with plans to turn it into high-end, loft-style apartments.

“It’s got a hell of a lot of potential in it,” said friend and downtown neighbor Tammie Grieshaber, who considers both projects the next “tipping point” for growth. “I think both of them will allow more young people to be able to move in. We just have a dearth of good housing that’s affordable — even that’s just nice — that appeals to young professionals, and this will answer that in many ways.”

The energy hasn’t been limited to the residential market: In the past 10 years, more than $10 million in real estate has changed hands downtown — and more than $7 million of that happened in the past five years, according to city records.

Jason Levesque, who bought and renovated the former McCrory’s store across the street from Fuel for his Argo Marketing, had 5,000 square feet of extra retail space on the first floor below his marketing operation sit empty for nearly three years.

He leased it all in the past three months, suddenly getting more inquiries than he had space.

“It came literally in a flood,” Levesque said.


Two-thirds went to office space for Spurwink and one-third to Complete Labor Staffing, a company expanding from New Hampshire.

“(Complete Labor Staffing’s) lease was for seven years, but they had an option to back out of the lease within the first year if the market wasn’t good, if the business wasn’t successful,” Levesque said. One week ago “they opted in, to not back out. So they’re very, very happy with Lewiston, they’re very happy with the location.”

Between the two, that’s 25 more people working on Lisbon Street.

Kevin Fletcher, a broker at Malone Commercial Brokers, delivered the central Maine market forecast at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association conference in mid-January. He’s “very optimistic” about downtown Lewiston, from Lisbon Street right down to the river.

“Some projects make more sense than others and some buildings are a better deal than others, but I like the market and I like what is happening down there,” Fletcher said. “I do believe that it has taken us 20 years to see the momentum we are starting to see, but I am bullish on this area and believe the next five years will continue to see development/redevelopment and opportunities.”

He has a $595,000 listing for the stately 33,607-square-foot building next to Lewiston District Court that he sees a future buyer using for office space.


Lincoln Jeffers, the city’s economic and community development director, said there’s increasingly more to do downtown and a shrinking supply of buildings to turn around, which is driving demand.

On the heels of big projects by Agren and others, “Jamey Pittman did the McGillicuddy building, which is the one Subway is in,” Jeffers said. “That was eight units, all one-bedrooms; he set a new bar for rentals and just did a first-rate job with the level of finish. (There’s also) The Lofts at Bates Mill; just one after another after another.

“There’s a great vibe going, a great energy and people want to be a part of it, and there’s a limited supply of this very cool downtown housing,” Jeffers said. “As it gets built, each of these projects has basically been leased or sold before it was completed.”

Nathan Szanton, the developer behind the Hartley Block project and who also developed The Lofts at Bates Mill, said the lofts’ 48 units have had a consistent waiting list since it opened in 2012. Tenants include three doctors who work at local hospitals, retail clerks and child care workers.

“If we can solve the financing puzzle, then I’m feeling great about (the Hartley Block,)” he said. “Our market study shows the demand is there. Trends throughout the country are more and more people are moving into town to take advantage of the benefits that come with density: the close proximity of restaurants, shops, cultural attractions, parks, riverwalks and things like that, and less dependence on automobiles.”

Grieshaber has lived on Lisbon Street since 2011, in two spots, first renting and then designing and buying her own condo above Jean.


“It’s happening,” she said. “It definitely is. When I came down, people thought I was crazy. Even when I bought, before Jules (Patry) bought his first building (which includes The Vault wine shop on the first floor), people thought, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re nuts.’ Even from a financial perspective, I made a very good investment. But mostly I just like it.” 

Jean, who was born and raised in Lewiston, is selling his condominium after having to move to Massachusetts last year for work.

He’d originally bought it to be part of the downtown “resurgence.” The expansive condo has tin ceilings, hardwood floors and what Jean described as a mix of old character and modern amenities.

“I decided it was just a great investment, a great opportunity,” he said.

He’ll confirm that if it sells for the $599,000 asking price or anything close: Jean bought it for $325,000 in 2013, according to city records.

He said he expanded a little on Agren’s improvements, adding a deck and a raised hot tub on the roof.

“It overlooks all of Auburn and the river and everything else,” he said. “I call it my man cave.”

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