AUBURN — A year to remember. That’s how Eric Cousens, director of planning and permitting, began a presentation to city officials Monday on Auburn’s recent development boom.

During fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30, a “conservative estimate” from staff put new construction value at $59 million, a record year. The city also saw records for total permits issued and permit fees collected.

Officials called the milestone “a big deal” given that the high numbers took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The permit value is tied to hundreds of projects but some are high-profile, including expansions at FutureGuard, Evergreen Subaru and Target’s $9.6 million renovation of the former Kmart on Center Street.

In early June, officials said the city might be on pace to break the previous record of $46.9 million from fiscal year 2019 due to some $12 million in new projects in the pipeline just that month.

In a memo to the council, Cousens said the permit numbers and new record for development activity is “a reassurance that the work that the council, Planning Board, and staff have been doing to simplify ordinances, expand development options and promote Auburn as a place to live, play and do business is helping to meet the council’s goals of attracting residents and expanding business investment.”

Cousens told officials that the former Kmart building “will look brand new when it’s done.”

Across the river in Lewiston, officials also reported big numbers, including a record for building permits issued, and the second-most new value in recent years.

In Auburn, Cousens said the fiscal 2021 figure does not include the construction value tied to the new Edward Little High School, which at $110 million, is the largest single plan review ever to be completed by his department. The school is also mostly funded by the state and is tax exempt.

Permit fees collected and the total volume of permits also set new records for the city this year. Auburn reported 1,178 permits issued in fiscal 2021, which beat out the 2019 record of 1,132.

Cousens said the beginning of fiscal year 2022 is also looking good. Asked Monday to estimate a figure for where Auburn could be by next July, Cousens said $71 million.

“I’m sure in his mind, he was pulling up people he’s spoken to who have yet to pull permits but that are likely,” Levesque said Tuesday about Cousens’ prediction.

Cousens said in the past, Auburn used $40 million as a target for “a good year.”

Both cities saw big years in fiscal 2019, followed by dips in fiscal year 2020. In 2020, Auburn reported $23.2 million, while Lewiston had $27.5 million.

But in 2021, Lewiston also came close to breaking a record for construction activity, with an estimated $72.6 million worth of permits, but did not beat out a record of $74.1 million in fiscal year 2018.

However, Lewiston’s 1,551 permits issued did break a previous record.

David Hediger, director of planning and code enforcement, said the permit activity includes commercial construction, additions or renovations, as well as one- and two-family structures, electrical and plumbing, new driveways and parking lots, swimming pools and more.

Lewiston has seen large multimillion dollar projects in the pipeline just this month, including an $11.5 million project at Bates College, which is tax exempt, and a $3.8 million addition for Valley Beverage Distributors.

Other large, tax-producing developments in Lewiston in the past year include a $6.1 million Avesta Housing project on Pine Street, a $2.1 million solar array on Lisbon Road, and a $2.5 million marijuana cultivation facility on Bridge Street.

Hediger said the estimated building value does not include planned construction tied to the New England Clean Energy Connect project. The Lewiston converter station and new sections of transmission line have received Planning Board approval, but Hediger said Central Maine Power has yet to turn in building permit applications for the work.

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