The Dominican Block at Lincoln and Chestnut streets in Lewiston is seen from Lincoln Street in January. Portland developer Jim Brady announced plans to renovate it into upscale apartments on the top three floors and retail space on the ground floor by next year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — City officials will ask the Planning Board to move forward with a zone change for the Dominican Block on Lincoln Street, which could pave the way for a redevelopment with market-rate housing and ground floor retail space.

According to city staff, the historic building and former home of a Catholic school has been vacant for decades, but was given new life this year when it was purchased by the Portland-based Fathom Companies.

Developer Jim Brady told the Sun Journal in February that he had been looking at properties outside Portland, and saw Lewiston as a city starting to “transition in a positive way.”

However, according to a memo to the City Council from Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, the property’s current zoning would only allow for six units, making the redevelopment “financially infeasible.”

The building is included in the riverfront zone, which requires 1,250 square feet of land per dwelling unit.

“What is allowed for housing under current zoning would result in a gross underutilization of the building,” Jeffers said.


The council’s formal request Tuesday will ask staff and the Planning Board to work with the owner “to develop a change in zoning that meets both the owner and city’s needs and goals, and the Planning Board make a recommendation to the City Council for further action on the zoning change.”

The 20,000-square-foot building was built in 1882 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the memo, it served as a parochial school and as “the social center for the Little Canada and Franco community.”

New Hampshire-based developer David Clem bought it in 2002 and had plans to turn the building into office space on the upper floors and potentially a restaurant and bar space below. Jeffers’ memo said the former owner “saved the building from demolition by neglect,” but they did not move forward with redevelopment.

If it moves ahead, the project would add more redevelopment activity to Lewiston’s riverfront area, which has long been a goal.

In June, the City Council signed off on a tax increment financing district for a 72-unit mixed-income housing project in part of the nearby Continental Mill along the Androscoggin River.

The project, dubbed Picker House Lofts, will consist of 46 units of workforce housing and 26 units of market-rate housing with of a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

Brady said in February that he’s looking at a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the Dominican Block, with plans to add an elevator and two stairwells inside.

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