LEWISTON — The City Council is poised to confirm a partnership this week with the Lewiston Housing Authority and Community Concepts ahead of a deadline to apply for a large federal redevelopment grant focused on the Tree Streets neighborhood.

The effort, known as the Choice Neighborhoods “transformation plan,” looks to secure millions in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development toward the redevelopment of multiple public housing sites, but also emphasizes neighborhood-level support for safety, health and education.

Along with formalizing the partnership Tuesday, the council will also vote to commit $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funding over the course of the five-year grant implementation, should the application be successful.

A “transformation” plan for downtown Lewiston and the Tree Streets neighborhood includes a 66-unit, mixed-use development on a stretch of Pine Street. Courtesy image

Originally, the city had planned to finalize the grant application in the spring and apply sometime this past summer, but since that timeline coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, officials dealt with a delay in the application process.

According to Misty Parker, Lewiston economic development manager, HUD published its notice of funding availability at the end of August, which marked a Dec. 16 deadline to apply.

A council memo states that this year the Choice Neighborhoods implementation program will award five grants, with a maximum of $35 million per grant.

Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, said Lewiston Housing is looking to submit the grant in early December for a HUD review “to confirm all grant requirements have been met” prior to the submission deadline.

The Lewiston Housing Authority is the lead applicant on the grant, with the city as co-applicant. Avesta Housing will act as development partner with Lewiston Housing, while Community Concepts will facilitate the plan’s broader goals of improving “the outcomes of households living in the target housing units, related to employment and income, health, and children’s education.”

The centerpiece of the plan calls for the redevelopment of 92 deteriorated HUD-assisted housing units, including at Maple Knoll, Lafayette Park, and several smaller scattered affordable properties, in three “strategic replacement sites” in the neighborhood.

In addition, another 93 units of workforce and market-rate units would be developed throughout the sites.

The replacement sites outlined in the plan include a 66-unit, mixed-use development on Pine Street, along Kennedy Park, and a 64-unit, family-oriented redevelopment along Pine and Bartlett streets.

L-A Community Housing, a subsidiary of Community Concepts, worked with the city to secure several properties that will be used in the redevelopment, ultimately transferring them to Lewiston Housing.

According to the memo, Lewiston receives about $900,000 annually from the CDBG entitlement program to be used for supporting housing and neighborhood improvements for low-to-moderate income residents, and about $200,000 from the HOME program.

Based on the needs outlined in the plan, staff requested the $1.5 million commitment, plus an anticipated $600,000 in HOME funds over the five-year implementation period “to ensure implementation of the housing and neighborhood plans are further advanced through municipal resources.”

Also on Tuesday, MaineHousing announced it awarded $75,000 to the city to support the “final phase” of the Choice Neighborhoods application.

In a MaineHousing news release, Jeffers called it “critical funding for design and planning services at a key time as Choice Neighborhood partners work to put the finishing touches on a $30 million grant application.”

The City Council vote Tuesday will authorize the city administrator to enter into a “memorandum of understanding and cooperation” between Lewiston Housing Authority and Community Concepts, which defines the three partners’ roles in implementing the grant, if awarded.

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