Planned housing development at Lewiston mill moves closer to groundbreaking
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Originally published on December 15, 2021 in Mainebiz, by Staff Writers.
With the final piece of funding in place, the Szanton Co.’s plan to turn a portion of Lewiston’s Continental Mill complex into housing will move forward to construction.
The Portland-based real estate developer announced Tuesday that it received MaineHousing funds that will allow detailed design work to begin, with an expected construction start in late 2022, according to a news release.
The project, called Picker House Lofts, will convert a 79,000-square-foot, L-shaped building at 2 Cedar St., in the center of the complex. It was built in 1858.
The plan is to create 46 units of workforce housing and 26 units of market-rate housing comprised of a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, for a total of 72 units overall.
Development cost for the project is estimated to be about $22.4 million. Financing will be delivered through a $4.5 million, affordable housing tax credits provided through MaineHousing that are expected to drive about $8 million in equity, and state and federal historic investment tax credits that are expected to drive about $9.7 million in equity.
“We are thrilled to have reached this point,” Nathan Szanton, president of the company, said in the release. “This is when projects go from being speculative to a real ‘go,’ and now we can go into detailed design and put the project out to bid.”
The rest of the 560,000-square-foot complex is owned by New Hampshire-based Chinburg Properties. The complex has been largely vacant since the 1960s.
Workforce and market-rate
Szanton Co. specializes in developing mixed-income rental housing in or near downtowns in Maine and New Hampshire.
Picker House Lofts will be Szanton’s third housing development in Lewiston. The company also built the 48-unit Lofts at Bates Mill, which opened in 2012, and the mixed-use, 63-unit Hartley Block, which opened in 2019.
The company put the Picker House site under contract early this year, and has since obtained financial support from the city in the form of a tax increment financing district, allowing the developer to use a portion of the property tax to service project debt. The project already has planning board approvals.
“The project will be the first phase of redevelopment in the Continental Mill, a beautiful building with a rich history located on the banks of the Androscoggin,” said Lewiston Economic and Community Development Director Lincoln Jeffers.
Szanton Co. Vice President Amy Cullen said profiles of workforce housing tenants often include retail clerks, secretaries, servers, health care workers, child care workers and young people recently out of college or vocational school. Profiles of market-rate tenants range from doctors to city employees to middle managers.
Cullen said she expects the project to add to Lewiston’s downtown labor force.
“We believe cities and their downtowns are stronger when residents are able to build and maintain their well-being, careers, and families in quality housing near neighborhood services and amenities,” Cullen said.
The building will feature a roof deck, fitness room, community room, indoor bike storage, on-site property manager and on-site resident service coordinator. Rents for the workforce units will range from approximately $700 to $1,100, while the market rents are expected to range from $1,050 to $1,350. Heat and hot water, off-street parking, and Wi-Fi will be included in the rent.
Picker House Lofts will be designed by Platz Associates in Auburn. The contractor for the project has not yet been determined. Doors are expected to open in fall 2023.
MaineHousing announced the funding for Picker House Lofts along with awards for six other housing projects throughout the state, including one other in Lewiston; two in Belfast; two in Portland; and one in Scarborough.