LEWISTON — City officials approved an ambitious update to Lewiston’s long-term plan for the riverfront area, including proposed upgrades to the riverwalk trail, the canal system, Island Point, Simard-Payne Memorial Park, and more.

The Riverfront Island Master Plan, first adopted in 2012, is the city’s long-range planning document for the areas between the riverfront and canal system into the downtown. The city hired consultants Halvorson Tighe & Bond last spring to help lead the effort to update the plan, and held several public sessions to gain feedback.

One of the most ambitious portions of the plan takes aim at Island Point, a 9.5-acre area adjacent to the Great Falls, which was formerly the site of the Libbey Mill that burned in 1999.

The updated plan states that the site, which features Veterans Memorial Park and the Brookfield White Pine hydroelectric facility, “has significant potential for development due to its commanding views of Great Falls and the Androscoggin River.” A concept design shows an open-air pavilion, recreational hall, residential and restaurant space, and terraced seating. It even shows a potential pedestrian bridge spanning the Great Falls into Auburn.

A concept image in the 2023 Riverfront Island Master Plan update shows ambitious ideas for the area known as Island Point near Veterans’ Memorial Park next to Main Street in Lewiston.

Some of the design elements mirror Thompson’s Point in Portland, with ideas for ice skating and a “maker’s market.”

The plan also states that central to any development will be extending the riverwalk through the site, and vehicular access from Main Street. While large sections of the area are owned by the city, the right of way for an access road from Main Street is not publicly owned, it states.


Asked Tuesday, Mayor Carl Sheline said the amount of time spent considering future plans for Island Point was a highlight in the process. The city recently acquired another small strip of land there.

Sheline also pointed to a section of the plan that calls for upgrades to the canal system, and a pilot program that is meant to give the public a glimpse at what an overhaul could look like.

Island Point in Lewiston, seen Tuesday with Main Street and Bates Mill in the background, is bounded on one side by the Androscoggin River. The area is a major focus of the city’s updated Riverfront Island Master Plan. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The long-term plan is to create a “Canal Street Promenade,” with a reconfigured road, pedestrian improvements and access to the canal. But, in the short-term, the pilot project will focus on a section of the lower canal along Oxford Street, with steps down to the canal from the Simard-Payne Memorial Park side.

“The steps allow the ‘touch the water’ experience – essentially an opportunity to remove the barriers, get down closer to the water and access recreation within the canal,” the plan states.

Other sections of the updated plan include ways to increase urban infill development and redevelopment in the areas between Simard-Payne Memorial Park and the downtown. That includes zone changes to “allow greater flexibility and increased density for residential development,” the plan says.

Major parts of the plan also call for extending the riverwalk, increasing downtown connections, and pedestrian and bicycle friendly upgrades. The plan has prioritized implementation in tiers, ranging from within the next one to five years to 10 to 15 years.


The city was recently awarded nearly $1 million in federal funding toward the riverwalk extension and canal system improvement projects. Officials have said the new section of trail would likely help with the redevelopment of the 650,000-square-foot Continental Mill and improve connections for downtown residents.

Staff said Tuesday that a groundbreaking at the Picker House Lofts, the first new housing at the Continental Mill complex, is slated for June 9.

Cars stop Tuesday at the traffic light at Main and Lincoln streets, bottom, in Lewiston. To the left is Veterans Memorial Park, foreground, and Island Point behind it. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

City Planner Shelley Norton said Tuesday that other projects planned in the short-term are a boat ramp in Simard-Payne Memorial Park, a rehabilitation of the so-called “Red Shop” building on the riverfront, and extending the riverwalk by the Continental Mill.

Prior to the unanimous vote Tuesday, elected officials said they’re excited for what the planning document represents for economic development.

“This is how we get new businesses coming in,” said Councilor Linda Scott, who also urged city officials to “make sure this doesn’t stay on a shelf. We need to use it.”

Planning Board member Shanna Cox, who is also president of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said the updated plan is an “amazing marketing tool to invite development.”

Councilor Bob McCarthy said the plan should be sent to developers throughout Maine and beyond.

Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, said the 2012 Riverfront Island Master Plan “has been an incredible tool” for sparking interest and conversations with potential developers.

To view the 2023 update, go to lewistonmaine.gov or click here.

Island Point in Lewiston, seen Tuesday with Longley Bridge at right, is bounded on one side by the Androscoggin River. The area is a major focus of the city’s updated Riverfront Island Master Plan. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: