Martel Elementary School at the corner of East Avenue and Lisbon Streets in Lewiston will likely be redeveloped. I closed in 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — City officials will decide the future of the former Martel Elementary School building this month, with three redevelopment offers on the table.

The school closed in 2019, and was officially considered city property as of September 2019, when the brand new Conners Elementary opened. Since then, the city has solicited bids for the sale and redevelopment of the building and its property following recommendations from the Planning Board and Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss the proposals during a workshop, and according to City Administrator Ed Barrett, the council will likely make a decision during its Feb. 18 meeting.

The three bids received by the city come from the Lewiston Housing Authority and Avesta Housing; David Gendron from Gendron & Gendron in Lewiston; and Auburn SHAREcenter, a nonprofit school program that collects materials to be reused by schools or other programs.

During previous discussions on the reuse of the school, the City Council listed preferences for “retaining the existing open space and playground areas and that the exterior of the historic (original portion of the) school building be retained if possible.”

According to the Avesta proposal, the company with Lewiston Housing as partners would like to purchase the property for $129,000 and redevelop the school into housing, with a focus on “seniors with mobility limitations.”

The proposal states that the original 1922 three-story structure would be retained and renovated if it could be placed on the National Historic Registry. They would also demolish the newer single-story wing of classrooms and auditorium to make way for new construction, making a total of 44 units.

It also states the rear portion of property would remain open green space for residents and the community, with a recreation easement to be granted to the city if a contract zone was approved.

According to the proposal, “Martel School Apartments will create up to 44 homes for seniors who seek safe, affordable living that is accessible, sustainable, and allows them to age in their community.”

The council memo states, “They believe the location is a good one for seniors with limited mobility due to its proximity to retail and commercial activities.”

The entire project is estimated to cost $11.5 million, with Lewiston Housing owning and managing the apartments, and Avesta serving as the development consultant, facilitating the financing, design, and construction. Avesta has redeveloped multiple former school properties in Maine.

The Gendron bid proposes to purchase the property for $400,000 and redevelop it into an unspecified commercial use. The proposal says it’s unknown whether any of the existing school building would be retained.

According to the City Council memo, the property is currently assessed at $1.7 million, but that the assessing office “estimates the market value of the building in the range of $700,000 and, if the buildings are demolished, the assessment would be in the range of $400,000.

The Auburn SHAREcenter bid is for $0, with the nonprofit proposing to use the former school as a permanent home for the center that serves Maine schools and other nonprofits by repurposing donated school supplies, computers and other equipment.

The organization is currently storing its large items like office and school furniture at Martel, and is requesting to continue to use the school on an “in-kind” basis as long as possible “so we may have time to research possible funding or partnering for our mission and vision for Martel.”

The proposal states the organization could partner with Lewiston Recreation for use of the green space, and set up rental space for “retail, offices, dance classes, yoga,” and more.

“The revenue from that space would create more monies for maintenance and growth,” the proposal states.

Several organizations have sent letters to the city in support of the SHAREcenter proposal, including the Lewiston Recreation Department.

“We see the Martel property as a ‘diamond in the rough,'” the letter from Lewiston Recreation said. “With its central location, historical charm, and multi-use facility, the proposed Martel Community Center would become an improved and valued ‘jewel’ in Lewiston’s ‘crown.'”


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