A fresh blanket of snow Thursday afternoon covers the former Martel Elementary School at Lisbon Street and East Avenue in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – Developer David Gendron informed the City Council in a letter Tuesday that he was withdrawing his offer to purchase and develop the former Martel School property on Lisbon Street.

“The statements from the city’s Planning Board, which were made at its meeting on February 13, 2023, demonstrate a profound lack of respect for what the Gendron family has provided to the city,” Gendron wrote. “It also demonstrates a shocking lack of knowledge of how difficult sites like Martel School are developed.”

Plans for the property at 860 Lisbon St. have been up in the air since January when the council decided not to renew a two-year option agreement with Lewiston Housing and Avesta Housing, which had planned to redevelop the property into 44 units of senior housing.

The Planning Board voted unanimously Feb. 13 to send the council a recommendation in favor of again pursuing senior housing at the site.

Gendron, of Gendron Realty, had expressed interest in acquiring and redeveloping the site for mixed-use since 2019. His offer was to buy the property for $400,000 with the stipulation that he would pay to demolish the building, but the city pick up the tab for asbestos abatement and “disposal fees post-demolition.”

Councilor Rick LaChapelle read Gendron’s letter at Tuesday’s council meeting. Gendron, who did not appear to be present at the meeting, declined to comment further when reached Thursday.


LaChapelle said media coverage of the decisions regarding the former school site “have shown, unfortunately, that political posturing is once again winning out over the truth in Lewiston leadership.”

“Shame on all who have chosen to participate in deliberate misportrayals of the Martel project, the City Council and the Gendron family,” he said.

LaChapelle said Planning Board member and former City Councilor Mike Marcotte “knows better than anyone else” that the council’s reason to not renew the agreement with Lewiston Housing and Avesta Housing was discussed in executive session, and therefore not public.

According to LaChapelle, Lewiston Housing brought a plan to the council to triple the 44 units included in their original plan “with very little green space.” LaChapelle said Lewiston Housing said his request to add more green space was not possible.

Then, the agency came “back to the city with no timeline and no money to move the project forward, but still wants us to hold on to the property for them.”

It was not clear when these events took place.


Marcotte said at the Feb. 13 meeting that the decision not to renew the agreement was “unconscionable.”

LaChapelle said Marcotte and other Planning Board members “bad-mouth one of our great families in our city.”

He also accused Mayor Carl Sheline of differing “views and votes” in public versus in executive session.

“My position on the Martel site hasn’t changed,” Sheline said Thursday. “From the beginning, both privately and publicly, I’ve advocated for Lewiston Housing to develop affordable senior housing on the property. What I’ve been concerned about is the lack of transparency.”

“The Planning Board and the public received no information about the reason for moving forward with another developer,” he said. “If a majority of the council wanted to change course they should have plainly stated why and then put the property back out for (requests for proposals). What has transpired is unfortunate and was completely avoidable.”

Gendron had planned to develop the former Martel School site for mixed-use with “at least the original 44 senior housing units along with either retail or restaurant,” LaChapelle said.

This appears to be the first mention of Gendron’s apparent intention to include senior housing in his redevelopment plans.

In his letter, Gendron said that as one of the city’s “largest taxpayers, I take issue with how the Martel School negotiations have unfolded.

“My time and resources are, like all things in life, finite,” he said. “Developers who are willing to take on the Martel School project are far and few between. If the city has no interest in partnership on this transaction, I will focus my time and resources elsewhere.”

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