By Andrew Rice SUN JOURNAL
LEWISTON — The developers behind a proposed senior housing project at the former Martel Elementary School say the project is moving forward after securing key financing.
The proposed 44-unit senior housing redevelopment would reuse the aged school building at 880 Lisbon St., which permanently closed in 2019 before the new Connors Elementary School opened.
Project partners Avesta Housing and Lewiston Housing were among several projects to receive low-income housing tax credits from Maine Housing in 2020, and in 2021 the project received an affordable housing program award from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.
Catherine Elliot, senior development officer for Avesta, said the group is now trying to nail down an updated timeline for the $12 million project.
“We are currently working on a revised schedule that meets the regulatory requirements of our various funding sources so we can deliver this much-needed safe, affordable housing to the Lewiston community,” she said.
According to Lewiston Housing, it will provide 44 homes to seniors earning less than 50% or 60% area median income, with 23 units using “project-based vouchers allowing seniors to pay 30% of their adjusted monthly gross income towards rent.”
The city signed off on a purchase-and-sale agreement with Avesta in May 2020 after fielding three redevelopment offers. The Portland-based developer has redeveloped a number of former school buildings into senior housing projects, and along with Lewiston Housing, has also partnered with the city for its Choice Neighborhoods redevelopment program.
Avesta’s proposal for the project said the original 1922 three-story structure would be retained and renovated if it could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They would also demolish the newer single-story wing of classrooms and auditorium to make way for new construction. The project would also include a recreation easement for the city to use the green space. Lewiston Housing would pay $129,000 for the property.
Elliot said she is “working with our project partners on a revised timeline,” and once construction begins, the work would take about 12 months.
Lewiston has seen several housing projects move forward this year at a time when much of the state is reporting a shortage of housing. The first phase of the Choice Neighborhoods effort, a 74-unit development on Pine, Walnut, Bartlett, and Pierce streets, received MaineHousing funding in December, allowing roughly two-thirds of the units to be designated affordable.
Also in the pipeline is the Picker House Lofts, 72 units at the center of the Continental Mill complex.
Developers, The Szanton Co., also received tax credits from MaineHousing to allow 46 units to be set aside for households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income, which is roughly $42,000.