LEWISTON — Another property could soon be added to the redevelopment pipeline in the city’s riverfront district.

The Planning Board this week forwarded a favorable recommendation to the City Council regarding the potential sale of 49 Beech St., which would be the last in a string of properties surrounding Simard-Payne Memorial Park to be purchased for redevelopment.

The L-shaped property known as the “pump house” straddles the Androscoggin River and a portion of the canal, and was acquired by the city in 2018 from Brookfield Renewable as part of the entire canal system acquisition.

While the potential buyer has not yet been identified, city officials said Wednesday that they are excited by its potential and what it could mean for the larger riverfront redevelopment effort.

The old pump house, closest to the river, center, currently owned by the city of Lewiston may be sold to a developer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We should all be pretty excited if this goes through,” said David Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement. “You have four properties all right next to each other there on the riverfront. It’s not far-fetched to say in the next three to five years there could be some huge changes in that area.”

Surrounding the property are planned redevelopments at 1 Beech St., the future home of Museum L-A, and 35 Beech St., the former Pamco Mill that has been approved for a 33-unit housing development and commercial space. Across the canal sits the hulking Continental Mill, where the new owners have plans for more than 200 housing units.

According to a Planning Board memo, a “qualified developer” has approached the city about redeveloping the pump house building into either a café, restaurant, or possible “assembly space for community use.”

The memo states the uses are consistent with the city’s Riverfront Island Master Plan and Comprehensive Plan.

“The developer has requested to remain anonymous at this time, preserving their rights to negotiate the sale of the property subject to City Council approval,” the memo states.

According to Hediger, the City Council is scheduled to act on the issue next week.

Hediger said Wednesday that while the developer has been tight-lipped on details for the purpose of negotiations, city officials are confident that the developer “has the capacity to do something positive down there.”

Due to the financing associated with the other projects on Beech Street, Hediger said the pump house project could be the first redevelopment to come to fruition. He said if it moves forward, it could “kick start” momentum for the other properties.

The building at 49 Beech St. in Lewiston is next to Simard-Payne memorial Park. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Lincoln Jeffers, director of Economic and Community Development, said Wednesday that the Developer’s Collaborative, which owns 35 Beech St., has explored several mixed-use redevelopment scenarios for the property, but has not yet secured an anchor tenant for the commercial space.

Last year, the developer applied for Low Income Housing Tax Credits to redevelop the upper floors into workforce housing, but the project was not awarded during the highly competitive process. However, the effort will continue this year.

On Monday, the Planning Board’s recommendation carried the condition that the developer of 49 Beech St. consider the neighboring projects also in the works, given the tight space between all three properties as well as future parking concerns.

During the meeting, Museum L-A spokeswoman Rachel Desgrosseilliers said the board just recently found out about the proposal, but due to the anonymity of the developer, she has been “antsy” about the project.

She said the museum has talked in the past about the need to have at least portions of the parcel to make their own redevelopment work.

“We’re not against the development, but we’re just trying to protect our effort and the many years we’ve put in,” she said.

The Planning Board memo states, “The disposition of the property will be subject to many details as the city wants to make sure access and easements remain in place for utilities, bicycle and pedestrian access along the canal and river, and maintenance of the canal and associated infrastructure.”

At the same time the projects are moving ahead, the city is conducting work on the canal system to remove vegetation and chain-link fencing, to be replaced with more ornamental fencing in an attempt to beautify the area. Hediger said the work began on the opposite side of Simard-Payne Memorial Park, and the city hopes to get council funding to continue the work all the way to the Beech Street section of the canal.

The 1.1-acre parcel and building are assessed at a combined $73,450. The pump house was formerly used as a hydro-facility for the Continental Mill.

The old pump house, closest to the river, center, currently owned by the city of Lewiston may be sold to a developer. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: