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June 13, 2024

$80M plan to redevelop Lewiston's Continental Mill gets planning board OK

This aerial view shows multiple buildings that make up the Continental Mill in Lewiston. Photo / COURTESY, MALONE COMMERCIAL BROKERS Eric Chinburg, president of Chinburg Properties in Newmarket, N.H., purchased the Continental Mill in Lewiston for $715,000 in 2019.

A proposal to redevelop the massive Continental Mill in Lewiston at an estimated cost of $80 million received approval this week from the city's planning board.

Development firm Chinburg Properties, of Newmarket, N.H., got the green light to convert the former textile factory at 2 Cedar St., which includes 450,000 square feet of floor area in several connected buildings.

The plan is to create 377 rental apartments, 20,000 square feet of offices, 20,000 square feet of space for light industry and 5,000 square feet of restaurant space, all within the existing structures.

“It sounds like it will be one heck of a fantastic project,” Lucy Bisson, the board’s chair, said at its June 10 development review.

The unanimous approval came with some contingencies. The developer must receive a traffic movement permit from the Maine Department of Transportation, provide size specifications for water meters, pay impact fees and provide updates to its landscaping plan and other plans in order to address exiting conditions on Cedar Street.

Chinburg is working with Kennebunk Savings Bank to finance the cost of construction. 

Historic cotton mill

Eric Chinburg, president of Chinburg Properties, bought the Continental Mill in 2019 for $715,000 with a plan to develop it as a mixed-use project.

Chinburg is an experienced developer of historic mills in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.

The brick and granite mill was built in 1858 along the banks of the Androscoggin River. Features include high ceilings, brick walls, hardwood floors, 40,000 square feet of parking and excellent street access and exposure.

The site is on Riverfront Island, a pivotal area within the city’s downtown. It is home to the Bates Mill Complex, where high-quality restoration has attracted offices, destination restaurants, a brewery, a medical space and new loft-style housing.

The Continental Mill, on 9.2 acres between the river and Oxford Street, originally was dubbed the Porter Mill and processed cotton. The property was purchased in 1866 by the Continental Co. and expanded and renamed. By 1895, the Continental Co. employed 1,200 people at the site.

Chinburg has sold one of the complex’s buildings — a 79,000-square-foot structure once used as a “picker house” because that’s where impurities were picked out of cotton before it was run through textile-making machines. The buyer was the Szanton Co., a Portland-based housing developer.

In 2021, the planning board approved Szanton’s application to redevelop the picker house as Picker House Lofts, a 72-unit mixed income apartment project. The project broke ground last year.

Parking and sidewalks

Some exterior changes and demolition of minor structures, including chimney and ventilation structures, are planned. The project has 287 on-site parking spaces and Chinburg anticipates contracting for an additional 280 parking spaces at the Chestnut Street Garage, which is about 500 feet east of the mill complex.

The on-site spaces will be reserved for the commercial tenants during business hours and for residents in off-hours. Most residents will probably need to use the parking garage. 

A large internal courtyard will be redeveloped to provide recreational area for tenants, and will include sidewalks, seating areas and plantings. The project will use the public water and sewer systems. Sidewalks will be constructed within the site to give pedestrians safe access to and from the building entry locations. The internal site sidewalks will connect to the surrounding public sidewalk network on Cedar and Oxford Street.

In addition to Chinburg, the project is being led by Portland civil engineer Terradyn Consultants, Market Square Architects of Portsmouth, N.H., and landscape architect Ironwood Design Group of Newmarket, N.H. Christine Beard, a historic consultant with Essex Preservation Consulting in Amesbury, Mass., has also participated.

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