Lewiston Housing Deputy Executive Director Travis Heynen speaks during Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony at the Wedgewood House in Lewiston.

The home will be turned into apartments as part of the Choice Neighborhoods initiative.
Officials gather in Lewiston for housing project groundbreaking
Choice Neighborhoods is a federal grant program that helps fix distressed public housing and create mixed-income areas.
By ANDREW RICE Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Local officials said Monday’s groundbreaking at the historic “Wedgewood” house was a decade in the making.

The sprawling, 82-unit, nine-building development is the first phase of the city’s Choice Neighborhoods initiative, and it was celebrated Monday with a large gathering that included appearances by federal, state and local officials.

Many said the lengthy effort to get to this point was bolstered by a Tree Streets neighborhood that pushed for and guided the eventual plan for redevelopment and other programs that could turn the area into a desired community.

Ashley Medina, who grew up in the neighborhood and stumped in Washington, D.C., for Lewiston to receive the $30 million grant, said the overall plan will help create a neighborhood that kids want to stay in, rather than move away.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who as vicechair of the Senate Appropriations Committee helped Lewiston become the smallest city to ever receive a Choice Neighborhoods grant, said the plan is “about more than housing, it’s about improving people’s lives.”

She said the new housing, combined with childcare and educational programs, will make the neighborhood “a great place to raise a family.”

The first phase, developed by Avesta Housing and Lewiston Housing, will replace more than 40 units of “distressed” housing in the neighborhood, and add another 40 between Pine, Pierce, Walnut and Bartlett streets. It will also renovate the 150-year-old Wedgewood house on Pine Street into additional units.

Other officials pointed out that the units will come online as the state grapples with a housing shortage that is driving up prices.

U.S. Sen. Angus King said two of the state’s biggest challenges are housing and its workforce.

“You can’t have a workforce if they don’t have a place to live,” he said. “We need a lot of small solutions instead of just one big solution.”

Gov. Janet Mills said that along with the second phase of development, known as DeWitt, the projects “together will ease the housing shortage in Lewiston.”

She added that when she was the district attorney in Androscoggin County, the Tree Streets neighborhood in Lewiston “got a bad rap.”

“Now, I’d be proud to live here,” she said.

Misty Parker, deputy director of economic development in Lewiston, said that since 2013, when Lewiston began its push for a Choice Neighborhoods 

Hyde School launches a new day student program for students in grades 9 through postgraduate.

Hyde School launches a new day student program for planning grant, downtown residents “have pushed for the change they knew was possible for the city.”

“Despite destructive stereotypes, residents have continued to push to have a voice among those with power,” she said.

Mayor Carl Sheline said when Lewiston was awarded the grant in 2021, he had recently moved a business from Auburn to Lewiston.

“I remember telling my staff at the time that this was going to be monumental for our city,” he said.

“This was long before I even thought about running for mayor, but I understood the significance of what this meant for Lewiston.”

Sheline said the “ripple effect” from the grant and projects in the pipeline is driving new investment in the neighborhood.

“The properties surrounding this development are being renovated, and tenants and businesses are moving in,” he said.

“Before we’ve constructed a single building, this project is generating economic impact and adding value to our city.”

Richard Monocchio, principal deputy assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development, which awarded the grant, said Lewiston residents remind him of those from his native Chicago.

“It’s a city that works,” he said. “What we’re doing for our kids, creating leadfree housing, with early childhood and after school programs, this is what it’s about. This is what government is supposed to be doing.”

Last week, the Lewiston Planning Board approved a development and subdivision review for a 104- unit apartment complex to be built on the Pine Street block between Park and Bates streets that faces Kennedy Park.

The second phase of Choice Neighborhoods will demolish the two buildings on the block, including 40 Pine St., the former bank and Sun Journal office, and create two five-story buildings with 52 units each, with a combined 14,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floors.

Andrew Rice — 207-689-2890 arice@sunjournal.com