LEWISTON — After unanimous support from the City Council, officials will finalize the details and ready an application for a redevelopment grant that could bring sweeping changes to Lewiston’s downtown.

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to formalize a long-planned collaboration with the Lewiston Housing Authority and Community Concepts on a grant application that could yield some $30 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As part of the approvals Tuesday, the city also committed $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funding toward the project over a five-year span, should the grant application be successful.

The council vote marked one of the final steps before a Dec. 16 application deadline, after which officials will wait to see if the project is one of five “Choice Neighborhoods” selected by the federal government to receive up to $35 million.

A concept design included in Lewiston’s ‘transformation plan’ shared Tuesday shows one of three redevelopment sites, this one along Pine Street across from Kennedy Park. The design shows two buildings with apartment units situated above office and retail space, and a community food center.

In 2018, the city was awarded an initial $1.3 million planning grant, which resulted in a monthlong community-driven process to draft the “transformation plan,” which calls for the redevelopment of multiple public housing sites, but also emphasizes neighborhood-level support for safety, health and education.

Lewiston was among only three cities in the country to be awarded the planning grant, along with Los Angeles and Philadelphia, making Lewiston the first city of its size to take part.

Mayor Mark Cayer said Tuesday that the project represents “the best chance we have seen in decades to truly reduce poverty in this community.”

He said historically, HUD-funded low-income housing developments have been designed “with no thought process” into addressing poverty, but that the transformation plan would combine new housing with “wraparound services” to support the people who live there.

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.

Misty Parker, economic development manager, presented new details Tuesday, including updated concept designs for the three replacement sites.

On Pine Street, across from Kennedy Park, the design shows two buildings featuring a combined 71 apartment units, with units situated above office and retail space, and a community food center.

Parker said each site will feature a mix of HUD-assisted “replacement” units, workforce housing and market-rate units. There will also be a mix of sizes, ranging from one to four-bedroom apartments.

“Replacement Site 2,” between Pine, Bartlett and Pierce streets, shows a three-block redevelopment project featuring 74 combined new and renovated units.

The replacement sites will also differ slightly in design. A larger, and more spread out redevelopment site between Pine, Bartlett and Pierce streets will feature 74 units of new and renovated housing. Parker said this redevelopment will focus more on family-oriented housing, featuring lower density buildings, more green space and several housing options.

Throughout the public process, officials have said the other components of the plan are what will hopefully make it different than past endeavors.

Parker said the “people” plan focuses on family stability, well-being, financial management, education and training, employment and career management, while the “neighborhood” plan includes a lead poisoning initiative and efforts to expand child care, the B Street Health Center, create a community food center and pursue neighborhood Wi-Fi.

The lead initiative, “lead free by (2043),” was overwhelmingly supported by the community members who took part in the planning sessions, officials said.

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

HUD published its notice of funding availability at the end of August, which marked a Dec. 16 deadline to apply.

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