LEWISTON — Downtown Howe Street has a new building with an eye-catching creative look, thanks to unusual siding on the Tree Street Youth Center’s expansion, scheduled to open in mid-March.

The siding on the expansion has a pattern of diamond-like panels of different colors: turquoise, soft green, gray, white and navy blue.

“It’s really intriguing,” said Tree Street Executive Director Julia Sleeper. “It kind of looks like different trees, leaves falling.” To her it represents “transitions,” like the year-to-year growth of the youths who frequent the inner-city drop-in center.

The siding is the brainchild of Eric Potvin, an architect at Harriman Associates in Auburn. Potvin graduated from Lewiston High School in 1998.

“He wanted to be creative, youth-friendly,” Sleeper said, adding that she, her neighbors and the Tree Street youth love the siding, which was put up in late January.

“The kids are so excited about it,” she said. “They say it’s art on the building. They’ve described it as fish scales, honeycomb. It looks different than anything else. I think it speaks to Tree Street, trying to be a little different.”

Potvin said Monday the metal panels are 1.6 feet each, installed one at a time like tile by Hahnel Bros. of Lewiston. The material is actually used as roofing tiles. Potvin saw them on the exterior walls of a dorm in Ithaca, New York, and he liked the look.

“It gave me inspiration for Tree Street,” Potvin said. “It’s like leaves on a tree.”

The expansion is on target, Sleeper said.

It will have a multipurpose space that can be used as a gym, auditorium, gaming area and study space, plus a new main entrance, “so you can actually get in,” Sleeper said with a laugh, as the existing doors lack outside handles.

Tree Street is a downtown, private nonprofit center offering free enrichment programs and tutoring for students after school and during the summer months. It also offers programs helping high-schoolers get ready for college.

The center opened in 2011 as a drop-in after-school program in a corner of the Birch Street building. Its students are from economically disadvantaged families, many of whom are immigrants.

Sleeper, a Bates College graduate, saw a need to provide academic and enrichment support for children. Five years after she opened the center, the program owns its building and is expanding.

Sleeper announced in December that $1.5 million had been raised for the expansion. The money came from grants and individuals.

Teenagers look inside the windows to see the work in progress at the Tree Street Youth Center in Lewiston on Monday. An old warehouse is being renovated into a modern space for sixth-graders and older to gather, work on homework, fill out college applications and perform in a new auditorium. 

Project superintendent Jason Ayer of Hebert Construction and Tree Street Youth founder Julia Sleeper stand near the auditorium stage of the Lewiston drop-in center for inner-city youths Monday. The project will double the space, indoors and outdoors, for teens and children to play and do their homework.

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