LEWISTON — Plans to bring a community market and food incubator space to the downtown will move forward in 2024 after the organization behind the project faced some setbacks in 2023.

Last week, the City Council entered into an option agreement with the Lewiston-Auburn Community Market for the purchase of 171 Park St., the home of the Lewiston Police Department, which will be vacated in mid-2024 when the department moves to the Bates Mill complex.

Kirsten Walter, director of the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, which has spearheaded the community market effort, said the Park Street location “really is the only available place in the downtown that meets the needs” of the project.

The organization, a cooperative that is governed by a 17-member board, will use the 18-month option to explore the viability of developing the property for a community food center that would incorporate a grocer, a commercial kitchen and cold storage for local food entrepreneurs and community members.

The Lewiston Police Department headquarters at 171 Park St. is slated to become the Lewiston-Auburn Community Market in 2024. The department is moving to the Bates Mill No. 7 in mid-2024. Sun Journal file photo

Walter said the project has already secured some $5 million through grants and donors. Recent community planning efforts like Choice Neighborhoods and the Local Foods Action Plan have “demonstrated a need for a market downtown for local food access,” he said.

A city memo states that Lewiston-Auburn Community Market’s goal is “to bring to fruition the community vision for a community food center that included a permanent, affordable grocery in the downtown.”


Walter said the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center constantly receives requests from local organizations looking to use its kitchen, and that a larger commercial kitchen at the community market would allow for events, rentals, and could serve as an incubator space for local businesses to test products.

The proposed building envelope would be roughly 12,000 to 15,000 square feet.

The effort was originally in talks to move into the former Sun Journal building at 104 Park St., but was caught in the middle of a Lewiston Housing proposal to put a shelter there.

When Lewiston Housing proposed using state funding to operate a homeless shelter at 104 Park St. in the spring of 2023, city administration opposed the idea, partly because officials believed it would impact the community market project. At the time, organizers said they had a handshake agreement to redevelop the site.

According to a city memo, Lewiston-Auburn Community Market had made “significant development progress at a previous downtown location that unfortunately fell through leaving the business to begin site location and development planning all over again.”

According to a council memo, existing studies of the building condition state that it is distressed and recommended for demolition. It states the 18-month timeframe “will enable LACM to do an independent feasibility analysis of rehabilitation as well as demolition and new construction.”


As part of the option, Lewiston-Auburn Community Market would negotiate a fair market acquisition price with the City Council for the property. According to the city, the estimated market value of the property is $850,000.

“This is something we absolutely need downtown,” City Councilor Linda Scott said last week. “I’m so happy you found an alternative.”

Misty Parker, assistant director of economic development, said the Police Department is expected to move to its new headquarters at Bates Mill No. 7 in mid-2024.

When approved, the estimated cost of redeveloping the mill space was $12 million, with a $420,000 annual rent. After year six of the lease, the city would have the option to purchase the building.

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