LEWISTON — A redevelopment effort at Bates Mill No. 5 will get at least another three years, after the City Council approved an agreement with developer Tom Platz on Tuesday night.

The agreement gives Platz exclusive rights to buy the 350,000-square-foot building for $1, but also leaves the door open for another developer to take over the project in the third year. 

The council voted 6-1, with Councilor Michael Marcotte opposed.  

Since the city took over the property in 1992, there have been decades of discussion on whether to demolish or redevelop the property. While Platz has bought and slowly redeveloped the rest of the Bates Mill complex, Mill No. 5, the largest of the properties, has proven difficult.

Last week, the majority of the City Council said its favored a three-year extension for Platz, which could give the slow-moving effort some breathing room. 

Platz has remained optimistic about the redevelopment effort, saying last week that he would like to concentrate on developing the mill one half at a time. He said that within the three-year time frame, he would hope to “have our tenants ready.”


“We’ll get it designed and we’ll get it under construction,” Platz said.

Included in the new agreement is a clause that, after two years, allows the city to sell the property to a third party should the city receive a “bona fide” proposal with “evidence of financing, tenant commitments and a level of investment that are reasonable acceptable to the city.” 

If that occurred, the proposed tenants working with a third party must differ from those working with Platz.

Platz, along with potential tenants, has already poured some $700,000 into studies and other groundwork for the redevelopment. 

For the past two years, the city has confirmed successive, one-year agreements, barely passing an extension in 2017 by a 4-3 vote. The council held an executive session on the agreement details during a workshop prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community relations, said Tuesday the longer agreement will allow Platz and his team to secure tenants while working with the city to complete the necessary environmental work at the site.


Over the past year, Platz has modified his approach to the enormous project. What had been considered a $70 million renovation could become two $35 million projects if he tackled Mill No. 5 one half at a time, he said last week. 

The Auburn-Lewiston YMCA remains a committed tenant, and Platz said he is in discussions with the University of Southern Maine.

Jeffers said that over the course of the option agreement, Platz and the city must also negotiate a joint-development agreement, parking agreement and tax-increment financing district. 

The one dissenting voice, Marcotte, also advocated last week for the third-party option to be included in the new agreement. On Tuesday, he said he has seen a similar agreement “for so long already.” 

“In the private sector,” he said, “we don’t see $1 options.”

Platz previously told the council that he has been able to renovate the Bates Mill complex at a lower price per square foot than for new construction, and believes the same would occur at Mill No. 5. But, he said, if a developer happened to come along with financing in place, he would be willing to step aside for a viable project. 


The new agreement expires Feb. 28, 2021.

Canal ownership 

The City Council also voted unanimously to allow City Administrator Ed Barrett to sign paperwork to finally gain ownership of the historic canal system. 

Closing on the deal, which could occur this month, will cap a decade-long city process to acquire the canals, a 1.5-mile system dating back to the mid-1800s, when they were created to generate power. 

The city has pursued ownership of the canal system to restore the aesthetics of the downtown waterways, which officials have said were once a “unique and attractive” amenity for the city.

Some have envisioned kayaking or ice skating eventually being allowed. 


The city will acquire the system from Brookfield, which operates the Monty Hydro facility at the Great Falls. 

Barrett said Tuesday that the city would eventually be responsible for any deterioration of the power-generating facilities, which are mostly unused, but said the immediate goal of the city is beautification efforts along the canal banks. 

Next year’s capital improvement plan, also approved Tuesday, includes $150,000 for the canal project. Barrett said it would cover equipment needed to clear the canal banks to restore the green spaces along the canals. 

Barrett said the city should celebrate how far the negotiations have come over the years, and that the final agreement with Brookfield is far more beneficial for the city than when negotiations began.

Originally, the city would have been purchasing the canals, and would not have retained rights that could eventually lead to recreational opportunities. 

“The deal approved is so much better than the original,” Jeffers said at the meeting. 

Councilor Jim Lysen said the people of Lewiston have high hopes for what the city could do with the canals. He said he is expecting ice skating – and maybe even gondolas. 


The Lewiston City Council approved an agreement Tuesday night to extend for another three years a redevelopment effort at Bates Mill No. 5. The agreement gives developer Tom Platz exclusive rights to buy the 350,000-square-foot building for $1, but also leaves the door open for another developer to take over the project in the agreement’s third year. (Sun Journal file photo)

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