LEWISTON — A Portland developer has approached the city about building a 74-unit condominium complex near Central Maine Medical Center, but a zone change is needed for it to move forward.
The Planning Board will take up the proposed zone change this month after the City Council voted to initiate the process last week. The developer is asking the City Council to shift the property from the Urban Enterprise district to Centreville, which allows for a higher density.
According to a City Council memo, the current zoning would allow for 67 units, but, due to financing, the developer is seeking to build 74 units.
If ultimately approved, it would mark the first market-rate condominium project of its size in the city in years, and would add to another large housing development slated for nearby Avon Street.
The property at 3 Middle St., considered historic in Lewiston, was listed for $995,000 in August 2020. The 97,850-square-foot building has most recently been home to Ferguson Plumbing Supplies, which according to city staff, left the site in 2020.
The original building dates back to the mid-1800s, when it was built for the Lewiston Machine Co.
According to a document by the Lewiston Historic Preservation Review Board, the building served as a foundry to supply castings and machine parts to the cotton industry, and was later converted to a woolen mill. More recently it was used by plumbing businesses. Prior to Ferguson, it was home to Redlon & Johnson.
City tax records indicate the property is owned by GWD Properties, which purchased it in early 2020. However, according to the City Council memo, Portland-based Hardypond Development is under contract to purchase the property.
In a letter to city officials, Bob Gaudreau of Hardypond Development said based on financial projections and the current cost of construction, the company would not be able to move forward with the project due to the current zoning. Urban Enterprise caps the number of dwelling units allowed based on the size of the parcel: one unit per 1,500 square feet.
Gaudreau argued that the change would not be out of character for the neighborhood, which immediately abuts the Centreville district.
“I firmly believe housing and more specifically housing that is multi-modal in its connection to community gathering, needed services, and places of employment is crucial for sustainable economic and environmental success of municipalities,” he said.
City officials said last week that the proposed project will add diversity to Lewiston’s housing options, which includes “very few condominiums, which are an attractive housing option for certain market segments.”
In a memo to the City Council, Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, said the condos would range in size from 400 to 1,400 square feet. The units would be market rate, with some units as “multistory townhouses.”
“The developer has a construction and historic preservation background and wants to capitalize on the historic aspects of the 1862 vintage building, to enhance its appeal,” he said.
Misty Parker, economic development manager, said Monday that if approved, the condos would be “new and unique to the market” in the area.
“In the last five to six years we don’t have anything comparable at this scale,” she said.
During last week’s council meeting, Lewiston resident Joshua Nagine, who lives in the neighborhood, said, “any development completed is good,” but said the last project in the neighborhood “has sat for a year and a half undeveloped.”
He was referring to the 245-unit apartment complex planned for Avon Street, which was given initial approvals for a contract zone in 2019.
Nagine said with another zone change, the way homeowners can develop their properties will now be “different than the way it’s developed around us.” He said he’s not against the development, but added, “We just hope to see something actually come of it.”
Parker said Monday that the Avon Street developer, Saxon Partners, closed on the former Pineland Lumber Co. property earlier this spring after some delays, meaning construction could begin soon.
The Planning Board will send a recommendation on the Middle Street zone change back to the City Council for final approval. The project would then still have to go through the normal development review process.