LEWISTON — Three teenage boys were arrested and charged with arson following an investigation into a fire Tuesday in two abandoned former Pineland Lumber buildings on Avon Street.

A team from the Office of State Fire Marshal and the Lewiston Police Department investigated the fire overnight and into Wednesday before arresting the three teenagers, according to Shannon Moss, public information officer for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

One building sustained heavy damage, and a second smaller fire was discovered in an adjacent building.

The Lewiston teenagers, who are 13, 14 and 15 years old, have been released into the custody of their parents. No additional details are available on the teens or the investigation.

Several people, including neighbors who live in the area, reported that the empty building has been a popular spot for homeless people and drug users.

“You see a lot of homeless people walking around, coming through the woods and over the fence,” said Wayne Bingelis, who lives in the neighborhood. “That building has been abandoned for a long time; it was supposedly being used for storage.”

Several community members said they have been voicing frustration over the state of the abandoned buildings within the Sunnyside neighborhood for years. One resident said he led a walking tour with code enforcement officials and City Councilor Safiya Khalid this past June.

On another occasion around the same time, he took Lincoln Jeffers, director of economic and community development, through the area to talk about trouble with some the abandoned properties.

In November, city officials approved changes to a financial agreement with the developers of a 245-unit apartment complex meant for that area. Work on the project had been stalled for months.

The City Council in November signed off on an amended tax increment financing agreement with developer Saxon Partners, extending the timeline for construction of the “Residence at Great Falls” to the spring of 2025.

The development at the former Pineland Lumber site was originally slated for completion this coming spring. The city approved the initial financing agreement in December 2019, but Saxon did not close on the purchase of the property until March of this year.

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