LEWISTON — The redevelopment of the historic Dominican Block on Lincoln Street is moving forward this week after officials approved a contract zone for the property.

The Dominion Block on Lincoln Street in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The building’s owner, Fathom Companies, is planning to renovate and repurpose the building into 19 housing units and ground floor commercial or retail space.

While a final reading on the rezone will take place later this month, developer Jim Brady said architectural design, engineering and other work is already taking place. He added he doesn’t anticipate any opposition at this point.

Both the Planning Board and City Council have conducted unanimous votes so far, and his team is gearing up to rehab a historic building into much-needed housing in the riverfront area. On Tuesday, councilors praised the project and said they hope it will lead to more redevelopment in the Lincoln Street and riverfront areas.

“This is an extremely positive direction,” said Council President Michel Lajoie. “This is a beautiful building with a lot of history, in the riverfront area. It will probably give us a kick in the behind for us to do something in that area a little quicker than we are.”

City Planner Doug Greene said the Dominican Block has been up for lease for many years, “just waiting for good use.”

But, he said, the plan from Fathom is “a great step in the Lincoln Street area,” and will hopefully be a “catalyst for more development there.”

The contract zone will allow Fathom to build more housing units than is normally allowed in the Riverfront zone. Based on the lot size, current rules would allow only six dwelling units. But, the contract zone will lower the standard to a density of one dwelling unit per 426 square feet of lot area.

Brady said Fathom has contracted with Portland architect Caleb Johnson Studios, which is in the design development phase, and has Hebert Construction on board as a contractor.

The Dominican Block pictured in 1883.

Opened in January 1883 as a Catholic parish school at 143 Lincoln St., the Dominican Block was designed by Lewiston architect George M. Coombs and is listed on the national Register of Historic Places.

Because the building is a historic landmark, Fathom is seeking historic tax credits as part of the financing. Once the financing is acquired, Brady said he’s hoping work can begin during the first half of 2022, with a construction period of about a year.

Earlier this year, Brady told the Sun Journal that he’s looking at a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second, third and fourth floors and adding an elevator and two stairwells inside.

He said the ground floor space would be “some kind of food and beverage outlet, most likely.”

When asked, Brady said there are lingering concerns over construction costs, which skyrocketed during the pandemic. Labor shortages have also impacted projects.

“That’s actually our biggest concern,” he said. “Can we make the budget fit what we need to make it work, to be able to do the extensive adaptive reuse and rehabilitation that this building so desperately needs.”

Brady said that unlike the previous owner, Fathom does not plan to build an addition onto the original structure.

“We’re planning very little that would actually change the footprint or architectural exterior of the building itself,” he said.

According to an earlier Sun Journal story, New Hampshire-based developer David Clem bought it in 2002 and long had plans to turn the 24,138-square-foot building into office space on the top and potentially a restaurant and bar space below. The city approved plans for an elevator addition, a $2.4 million project, that never happened.

Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, said Tuesday’s vote is a good indication, and that he expects the final reading on Sept. 21 to also be “strongly endorsed.”

“We feel privileged to have the opportunity to work on such a historic landmark and bring it back into being a contributing building in the greater Lewiston community,” Brady said.


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