The building owned by St. Mary’s Healthcare System, background, where the YMCA operates their Daisy Garden Childcare Center, will be closing.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center plans to sell a building on Campus Avenue, a move that will close the day care facility there in May and leave 62 families scrambling to find an alternative.

“We’re going to do the best we can with a not-so-good situation,” said Steven Wallace, chief executive officer of the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, which runs the Daisy Garden Childcare Center.

Wallace said he and hospital executives hoped to find another suitable spot for the day care within the area bounded by Bates College and St. Mary’s but ultimately couldn’t come up with one that met the stringent standards set by state regulators.

Steve Costello, spokesman for St. Mary’s, said hospital officials determined as part of their strategic planning process that the 96 Campus Ave. building isn’t needed. He said the money raised through its sale would help refurbish other areas of the hospital that need “significant capital improvements.”

Costello said the sale will cause “a bit of short-term upheaval” but it is “the best way for us to move forward on the long-term plan for our organization.”

The city assessed the 3-acre property for $2.1 million. Its chief feature is the 1977 building, a former convent, that has housed the day care for many years, as well as some hospital offices.


Wallace said he expects the 17 employees at the day care center will be able to find other jobs within the YMCA’s umbrella.

The hospital and the YMCA said they will assist parents seeking a place for their children after May 28.

Wallace said that is the best time to make new arrangements so the closing was set to ease the burden as much as possible.

About half the children at the day care have parents who work at St. Mary’s. Bates employees’ children are some of the others. There is also a long waiting list.

Finding affordable, quality day care is a persistent headache throughout Maine. The pandemic has made it even harder, officials said, because many programs cut back on the number of children they serve or simply closed down.


They said Daisy Garden stayed open, in part, because it served so many parents deemed essential workers who were needed at the hospital to cope with medical issues related to COVID-19, including doctors and nurses.

Wallace said St. Mary’s has been “a great, great partner” over the years and he appreciates how hard it tried to find new accommodations for Daisy Garden, which has operated rent-free for more than a decade as a donation from the hospital to the YMCA to help lower costs.

The decision to close “was not made lightly,” he said. “We wish we could have found another place to move it.”

Wallace said, though, that the YMCA is still working on the issue.

In a letter to parents, Wallace said the YMCA was told the building would be sold about April 1. He gave no indication who would purchase it.

It is unclear who might buy the property, but given that it’s squeezed between Bates and the hospital’s own campus, it is unlikely that either neighbor would allow it to fall into the hands of a problematic owner.


According to a statement from the college, St. Mary’s asked “if we would be interested in purchasing the building” and the two entities “engaged in exploratory conversations” about the possibility. Those discussions “have not progressed,” it said.

Bates has bought a great deal of property surrounding its campus over the years and, it said, “routinely evaluates real estate opportunities adjacent to or near our campus,” the statement said.

“In recent years, the college has selectively purchased properties when approached by neighbors, to facilitate capital projects or expand rental options for more faculty and staff to reside in Lewiston,” it said.

Unlike Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Bates does not offer child care services to its employees. It does, though, have a dependent care subsidy program to assist with child care expenses for eligible faculty and staff.

Costello said Daisy Garden could have stayed open through Labor Day, but the YMCA decided it would be better to close at the end of May.

“There’s a time for everything,” Wallace said, and he wanted to make sure parents and staff had a couple of months of advance warning.

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