Martel Elementary School at 880 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Sun Journal 2019 photo

LEWISTON — The City Council signed off on a purchase-and-sale agreement Tuesday for the redevelopment of the former Martel School on Lisbon Street.

The agreement gives developer Avesta Housing the option to purchase the property, contingent on receiving low-income housing and historic preservation tax credits toward a planned 44-unit senior housing complex.

Avesta, which is partnering with the Lewiston Housing Authority, has redeveloped a number of former school buildings into senior housing projects.

Earlier this year, the City Council chose the Avesta plan out of three redevelopment proposals. The developers proposed paying $129,000 for the site, estimating redevelopment costs of $11.5 million. Staff said the project will be fully taxable.

According to a memo from Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, the Avesta proposal “addressed certain city preferences, including maintaining the historic portion of the school building and retaining the rear portion of the property for public open space.”

Jeffers said if Avesta does not receive the tax credits in its first application, the city administrator can extend the agreement by one year without further City Council action.

A part of the agreement also stipulates that Avesta will help the city evaluate the feasibility of including a senior center in the redevelopment, the costs of which would be paid for by the city.

During the meeting Tuesday, several councilors questioned whether the former school would be the best location for a senior center, considering accessibility and parking.

However, City Administrator Ed Barrett said the agreement would include a feasibility study.

Catherine Elliot, speaking on behalf of Avesta, said the immediate goal is to pinpoint what the needs of a senior center would be and whether it can be accomplished at the site. She said “several thousand” square feet would be available on the ground floor, but would require ADA accessibility.

The agreement also stipulates that Avesta or Lewiston Housing will not seek tax increment financing or federal HOME funds from the city for the project.

However, it states, if the site requires environmental remediation, municipal support can be requested. Jeffers said that could include federal cleanup grants for contaminated materials.

According to the memo, Avesta is planning to apply for the necessary tax credits this fall, and in order to be competitive, must have the development review approval from the Planning Board by that time.

Jeffers said to meet that schedule, Avesta would likely submit the project for staff review on June 1.


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