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

LEWISTON — The city will move ahead with an “exciting” redevelopment proposal for the riverfront pump house building next to Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

As the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize negotiations with an unnamed developer, elected officials also tried to reassure representatives from the neighboring Museum L-A, which had planned to incorporate the former pump house into its future exhibits.

Rachel Desgrosseilliers, founding executive director of Museum L-A, told the council Tuesday that the museum was also interested in negotiating for the property, and that the museum was surprised by the sudden move.

She said if the sale goes forward, the city would be selling a piece of property that “we were hoping to acquire for using down the road.”

“We’re not trying to block anything, but it is going to change what we’ve been working on,” she said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, councilors said that while the developer wishes to remain anonymous at this time, they are encouraged by the project’s potential, and are certain the developer would work closely with Museum L-A.

“It’s exciting,” Councilor Lee Clement said. “I think Museum L-A will appreciate what’s being proposed if it comes to fruition.”

Mayor Mark Cayer said Tuesday that “every discussion” that’s taken place between city officials and the developer so far has brought up Museum L-A, “and that will continue.”

“I think the community will be excited once a proposal is negotiated,” he said.

The L-shaped property at 49 Beech St. is 1.1 acres. It’s known as the “pump house” and borders the Androscoggin River and a portion of the canal. It was acquired by the city in 2018 from Brookfield Renewable as part of the entire canal system acquisition. The pump house was formerly used as a hydro-facility for the Continental Mill.

A council memo states that the developer is still considering uses for the property, including a coffee shop or “community gathering place.”

If the project moves forward, it would be the fourth property in the Simard-Payne Memorial Park area slated for redevelopment, with all of the movement occurring within the past few years.

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 the council memo, the potential pump house developer has discussed preserving the “historic features of the property, including some of the remaining machinery once used for power generation,” as well as coordinating the effort “with the city’s overall plan for the area and with the owners of nearby properties.”

When forwarding the issue to the City Council, the Planning Board recommended that the city “dispose of this property with the condition that the city include in the negotiations the needs of all interested parties, including the adjacent owners.”

The Finance Committee made a similar motion, with one member voting against the proposal due to the developer remaining anonymous.

Desgrosseilliers said Museum L-A is finalizing its plans for the new museum with its architect. Once it has final cost estimates, it can begin fundraising efforts.

She said the museum had previously talked about using the pump house as part of exhibits “telling the story of the river, the canal system, and water power.”

“We’ll have to see what they come up with and try to adapt,” she said. “We’ve been told that the city is going to be working with us, so we’re counting on that.”

Earlier this month, David Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, told the Sun Journal that 49 Beech St. has the potential to be the first redevelopment to come to fruition in that area. He said if it moves forward, it could “kick-start” momentum at the other properties.

Any final agreement between the city and the developer will require council approval.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN

Also on Tuesday, the City Council unanimously adopted the fiscal 2021 Capital Improvement Plan.

On paper, the plan that lays out capital and infrastructure needs is worth roughly $27 million, but the City Council does not decide which projects to fund until next year’s budget is finalized in May.

The most immediate part of next year’s plan calls for $9.7 million in city bonding, and $17.5 million in bonds for projects by the School Department, and water, sewer and stormwater departments.


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