LEWISTON — The City Council agreed Tuesday to extend the timeline for the redevelopment of the former Martel Elementary School, but did not commit to providing additional financial support for the proposed senior housing project.

Officials from Lewiston Housing, which entered into an option agreement to purchase the building at 880 Lisbon St. in May, said Tuesday that federal requirements tied to one of its funding sources necessitated the delay, and that the bid to demolish the building came back much higher than initially estimated due to additional asbestos remediation.

The amended timeline agreed upon Tuesday requires Lewiston Housing to begin the demolition work by Feb. 1, 2024, and finish by June 1.

However, councilors rebuffed a request from Lewiston Housing for an additional $200,000 to cover the asbestos remediation, at least until further discussions take place in the lead up to the Oct. 3 council meeting.

Several councilors said they were uncomfortable with the new deal, stating it was “bad optics” following an already contentious process with Lewiston Housing over the three-story brick building.

In May, the City Council voted 6-1 to approve the two-year option agreement, but not without considerable friction between councilors and Lewiston Housing officials that had been building from previous negotiations on the building. The relationship has only become more fractured since then due to Lewiston Housing’s attempts to use state grant funding aimed at curbing homelessness — first at the former home of the Sun Journal on Park Street, then at the Ramada Hotel on Pleasant Street.


Councilor Bob McCarthy said he was “dumbfounded” when he saw Lewiston Housing’s new request.

Councilor Lee Clement said he would support the extension “against my better judgment,” but added, “No money, no way.”

However, councilors also reiterated the dire need for more senior housing, expressing frustration that the city appears to be somewhat hamstrung by the deal.

A bid for the demolition and asbestos remediation from St. Laurent & Son was $798,376. The initial estimate was in the $400,000 range.

Lewiston Housing Director Chris Kilmurry said it was “unfortunate it got to this point,” and that the organization’s consultant missed the requirements that led to the delay. He said if Lewiston Housing had started demolition on the previous timeline, it would’ve become ineligible for tax credits for the property, a major funding source.

“I don’t want to be sitting here any more than you want me to be,” he said. “I agree there is a lot of need for senior housing in this town. If we start over again, we all lose.”


Councilor Rick LaChapelle said, “Lewiston Housing does a wonderful job with senior housing and we want you to have it,” but said in the last year, Lewiston Housing has purchased or attempted to purchase Lewiston buildings worth millions of dollars, and is now asking the city for $200,000.

“There might be legitimate reason, but the optics are bad,” he said.

The vote to extend the timeline was unanimous. The council is slated to take up the project again Oct. 3.

The senior housing project is proposed to be done in phases, with 36 units built by June 15, 2024, and 33 more constructed in 2025-26.

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