Lewiston, Maine, like many New England mill towns, is a product of the sweeping industrial revolution; an example of prosperity gained and lost as shifting manufacturing processes and locations built then gutted an entire city. The closure of the Androscoggin Mill in 1956 initiated a devastating and decades-long economic decline for the city, and by 2000, its population had decreased by 15% and become the single poorest census tract in Maine.
Hope for reviving a deteriorating community finally sprang in 2001 with the arrival of more than 1,000 Somali refugees. This infusion of people and shared culture reversed the city’s narrative and quickly rewrote it with Lewiston as one of the fastest growing communities in the state. Though the economy and crime rates began to stabilize, residents new and old were still plagued by lasting relics from decades of neglect, including a dangerous and aging housing inventory for at-risk populations and alarming rates of childhood lead poisoning.
The city is addressing these conditions through the application for and award of a federal Choice Neighborhoods Planning and Action Grant and HUD Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant. In partnership with Lewiston Housing Authority and Community Concepts, they planned a robust transformation of the Tree Street Neighborhood to celebrate the diversity, vibrancy, and resilience of the people who live and work in the neighborhood. Efforts will be focused on addressing Lewiston’s environmental safety concerns, housing and food security, and economic and social mobility.
Kaplan Thompson Architects and Avesta Housing were hired to redevelop three major sites within city limits through the renovation of existing structures and introduction of multiple mixed-use, mixed income multifamily buildings. Designing affordable, high-performance places for people to live and work will set a new precedent for adaptable, sustainable, and accessible construction in a town demanding and poised to experience major social, economic, and environmental redevelopment.
The first phase of the project will add 82 residential units, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, across 9 buildings on 4 separate parcels in the heart of the city.