LEWISTON — The City Council will decide Tuesday whether to give financial support to Community Concepts toward the beginning stages of an ambitious downtown transformation plan.

On the agenda is whether to give the organization $135,000 in demolition funds to assist with removing several aging buildings in the Choice Neighborhood plan area, part of a multiphase redevelopment project in the downtown.

The Lewiston-based nonprofit Community Concepts, a partner with the city in the plan, recently purchased properties at 107 Bartlett St., 119 Bartlett St. and 43 Walnut St. that it plans to demolish and redevelop.

According to a city memo, the properties are considered unsafe and have had multiple previous code violations.

The transformation plan looks to redevelop almost an entire block between Pine and Bartlett streets, resulting in 60 new units and four renovated units. Some of the land proposed for redevelopment is also owned by the city.

A map included in the 250-page transformation plan shows the proposed redevelopment sites, in orange, one along Pine Street and another block of housing on Pine and Bartlett streets. Courtesy image

If approved, the city funding would come from its Acquisition and Demolition account as well as a portion of the city’s annual tipping fee credit that it receives from ReVision Energy.

The transformation plan was the result of a yearlong community planning effort through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, designed to revitalize struggling neighborhoods.

The 250-page plan envisions wholesale changes made through new and redeveloped housing, beautification projects and a focus on safety, health and education.

At the centerpiece of the proposal are several ambitious redevelopment projects, including a 66-unit, mixed-use development on Pine Street along Kennedy Park and the redevelopment along Pine and Bartlett streets.

Lewiston-Auburn Community Housing, a development subsidiary of Community Concepts, has two Pine Street properties under contract: 60 Pine St. and 40 Pine St., formerly owned by the Sun Journal.

According to the council resolve, “demolition is necessary” of the existing buildings on Bartlett and Walnut streets purchased by L-A Community Housing. The organization will work with the residents of these buildings to relocate them “to safer units of their choice.”

Blake and Pine TIF

The council is set to make another decision regarding a redeveloped downtown property on Tuesday, as it considers a tax-increment financing district for an Avesta Housing project at Blake and Pine streets.

The development approved by the Planning Board earlier this year will feature 35 mixed-income units on lots that have been vacant since a devastating fire in 2013.

Prior to taking action, the City Council must hold a public hearing on the proposed TIF district, which will return 50% of the new taxes generated within the district to the developer for a term of 20 years, with the other 50% going to the city.

It’s estimated that the developer and city will each receive $22,253 annually, and $333,796 over the TIF term. The original assessed value of the TIF district was roughly $47,000.

The 35 apartments will be made up of 15 one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units. Seven units will be market rate, with the remaining units held for renters between 50% and 60% of average median income.

A petition circled earlier this year attempted to block the rezoning of the development, but failed to gain enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

According to project details, the building will offer an elevator, a community room, bike storage, and a
laundry facility, with 25 parking spots on-site and an additional eight spots available in a public parking garage three blocks from the building.

The development is expected to begin construction in September, with a projected move-in date of September 2020.

Continental Mill

Also on Tuesday, the City Council will begin a rezoning process requested by the new owner of the Continental Mill on Cedar Street.

According to a council memo, the property will need a contract rezoning to allow “the flexibility for a range of mixed uses that will be necessary to return the property to productive use.”

The memo states that the City Council will introduce the ordinance and refer it to the Planning Board for a public hearing and initial recommendation.

New Hampshire-based developer Eric Chinburg bought the 560,000-square-foot mill at auction in May with a $650,000 bid.

Chinburg Properties specializes in redeveloping mills, with Maine projects in Biddeford, Saco and Westbrook.

In May, Chinburg said he envisions a mixed-use project of mostly market-rate apartments, with a mix of retail, light-industrial, commercial and office uses.

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