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LETTER: Residential property is key to Riverfront Redevelopment

To the Editor:

I am delighted to hear about the “Riverfront Redevelopment Initiative.” What a great way to boost Lewiston’s image. Having lived in Lewiston for a good part of my life, I still maintain strong family, community and business ties there, even though I now live and work in New York City.

Over the years, I have closely followed Lewiston’s economic ups and downs as well as the city’s efforts to attract more business and economic development. I have traveled extensively throughout New England, and I am familiar with other successful redevelopment riverfront projects such as those in Manchester, N.H. and Pawtucket, R.I. I always hoped that someday Lewiston would follow suit. It is evident that there has been significant social, cultural and economic rebirth in these once struggling cities.

The key to the success in these examples was encouraging a sense of community by drawing residents to live in these downtown areas. Residential property is the most essential element to any redevelopment initiative.

The Continental Mill is a jewel along the Androscoggin River with tremendous potential. This historic building sits there proudly in testimony of an era gone by, but not forgotten. Highlighting this structure as the anchor of a riverfront redevelopment initiative is a great way to preserve the historical tradition and culture of our city.

Imagine a vibrant downtown residential complex on the water where young married couples, retirees, college professors, students and professionals can live, shop and work. One can envision bright loft–like apartments, artist studios and professional office spaces on the upper floors of the mill, complete with a coffee shop, bakery, dry cleaner, health club, pharmacy and restaurants at the ground level. Perhaps even a small boutique hotel could occupy part of this complex.

The seven-acre stretch along the riverfront allows ample space for recreational activities and could include a walking path, park, biking and running trails, a kayak launch and a dog run. There are limitless possibilities. Surely, a development like this would bring new life to the area along our riverfront.

Many people are unaware that there is still an operational hydroelectric power generation station housed within the Continental Mill. This station once provided hydroelectric energy for textile manufacturing. One can foresee the re-establishment of hydroelectric power supplying the needs of residents and commercial tenants at the complex. This is a perfect example of “green” redevelopment.

My grandfather purchased the Continental Mill and Hill Mill back in the 1960s, these and Cincinnati properties are still family owned and operated. The family has maintained these properties with great pride for the past several decades, saving them from dilapidation and vacancy, despite the extreme financial burden—a burden that may no longer be sustainable given the very limited opportunities to attract new tenants to our downtown area.

My uncle recently took on the arduous task of restoring Lewiston’s historic train station, creating a luxury event and prime office space in the downtown area. His project is an example of our family’s commitment to rebirth in Lewiston.

Redevelopment is key to keeping the city alive. As planning continues and city officials ponder the particulars of this great project, the importance of the Continental Mill must be highlighted. I urge residents to closely follow the progress of this initiative and maintain a vision of how all of Lewiston’s residents and historic mill properties would collectively benefit.

This project would ensure a successful rebirth and revitalization of this wonderful city. It may seem like a large undertaking at first glance, but time and time again these projects have proven extremely successful in similar cities across New England. This would be a great way to create jobs, bring new residents and attract suburbanites back to the downtown area—all of which would greatly benefit Lewiston’s economy.

Cheers to Lewiston, from those of us at a distance who still call the city our hometown.

Emmy Tracy Bernard

New York City


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