A crew cleans up debris May 4 from demolition of the former Market School on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. A 44-unit senior housing development is planned with a $5.4 million subsidy from MaineHousing. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Plans to build senior housing on the site of the former Martel School got a shot in the arm Thursday when the MaineHousing authority announced a $5.4 million subsidy for the project. 

The money earmarked for the development is part of $30 million being awarded for affordable housing projects in six cities.

It will help produce 248 affordable homes in Augusta, Bangor, Gardiner, Lewiston, Scarborough and Waterville while leveraging $61 million in private and public investment. 

For the Lewiston Housing Authority, it was momentous news. Plans for the construction of 44 senior housing units at 860 Lisbon St. — and possibly more — can get underway. 

“We’re extremely excited,” Lewiston Housing Authority Executive Director Chris Kilmurry said. “Martel is funded. We will be breaking ground, whether it be later this fall or at the very latest, in the springtime.” 

The project received approval from the Lewiston Planning Board in September. The school has since been demolished and the site leveled and graded, according to Economic & Community Development Director Lincoln Jeffers. 

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The project had been delayed several times due to funding concerns and other matters.  

“I know this project has been a long time coming and I really appreciate Lewiston Housing’s tenacity in getting this done,” Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said. “I appreciate their commitment to the city of Lewiston and their resolve to building senior housing for our residents.” 

The Maine State Housing Authority announced the subsidy Thursday afternoon. 

“This funding was made possible by the work of Governor (Janet) Mills and Maine’s legislature during this past legislative session,” according to the release, “with $17.5 million coming from the first half of the 131st Legislature in 2023 and another $10 million coming from the recently passed state supplemental budget in March.” 

The purpose is to inject money into projects that will provide “much needed” housing to the Maine cities.  

“These funding awards are yet another clear example of the unparalleled support for affordable housing development that has been shown by Governor Mills and a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers who have made the creation of safe, warm and affordable housing for all Maine people their priority,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said. 

In all, more than 30 developments, including more than 900 new affordable homes, are under construction in Maine towns and cities, large and small all over the state. 

“I have always believed that a home is much more than just a roof over your head,” Mills said, “and with these new projects, we will make home a reality for hundreds more Maine families. While there is more work to do, I am proud of this progress and of the funding that the Legislature and I provided to make it happen, and I thank MaineHousing for its continued work to create safe, comfortable, and affordable places to live for Maine people.”

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