Below we’ve answered questions we know Tree Street residents and the broader Lewiston community ask about the Choice Initiative. If you have a question and don’t see it answered here, please send us an email!
General Choice Questions
What is the Choice Initiative?
Choice Initiative is a $30 million federal funding investment in Lewiston with a focus on Lewiston’s Tree Streets. This funding begins implementation of the City’s Growing Our Tree Streets Transformation Plan.
True neighborhood transformation is about more than housing. The Choice Initiative focuses on the Tree Streets’ transformation through three areas of improvement: housing, people, and neighborhood. Choice Initiative and partner funding will:
- – Build and restore safe, quality and lead-free homes all neighbors can afford.
- – Increase job training and career planning so people can earn a living wage.
- – Support people starting and growing their own businesses.
- – Increase quality childcare options to meet family needs.
- – Improve education opportunities and increase academic performance of local youth.
- – Expand healthcare access for people and families.
- – Increase local access to nutritious, affordable food.
- – Create fun, safe places for youth and neighbors to play and gather outside.
- – Build safer neighborhoods together.
Does the Choice Initiative use other funding beyond the $30 million from HUD? If so, how much and where does the funding come from?
Choice is a catalyst for additional investments in Lewiston’s people and places. In addition to $30 million in federal funding, Lewiston will get more than $60 million in additional public and private investment including from the Federal Home Loan Bank, federal tax credits, the John T. Gorman Foundation, the Genesis Community Loan Fund, federal HOME funds, Community Development Block Grants, Norway Savings Bank, and other local, state, and federal programs.
Which areas of Lewiston is this funding for?
This funding, and the ideas and work it encompasses, will have a positive benefit for all of Lewiston. Choice will concentrate in and around the Tree Streets neighborhood, including the majority of Downtown Lewiston. After decades of disinvestment this neighborhood is facing many challenges.
And yet, this is a neighborhood of great opportunity. With beautiful historic buildings, walkable blocks, proximity to jobs, strong partners in education and workforce development, the Tree Streets neighborhood is one of the only areas with a growing population of youth in Maine. This neighborhood is within reach of a vibrant future. The funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is for neighborhoods like the Tree Streets. This funding helps transform neighborhoods and address challenges like distressed housing, poor health, underperforming schools, crime, lack of investment, and more. The investment in people and places in the Tree Streets will strengthen our entire city. Lewiston’s Choice Initiative is charting our city’s trajectory. This is our chance to honor our past and build our future.
When does all this happen? How do I find out what’s going on?
The Choice Initiative is five years of funding that runs through 2027. Choice Initiative work has begun and includes the soccer field and sledding hill at Mike McGraw Park. The expansion of Promise Early Childhood Education Center at 1 College Street will be complete this summer. Many other projects that residents noted as priorities are in process of becoming reality, including new housing. You can always find the latest updates on our update page.
Who oversees the Choice Initiative?
Lewiston Housing and the City of Lewiston are the lead grantees. However, the vast majority of work happening is by a network of community partners. You can look at the list of partners here.
Who ultimately decides how this grant money is spent?
Choice work is driven by the Transformation Plan. Lewiston Housing and the City of Lewiston worked with Choice partners to identify the Plan’s high priority strategies that would qualify for HUD funding. We wrote the grant based on the Plan, which included a budget for how we would spend the $30 million. While we can revise the budget for unforeseen costs like higher construction costs, the funding is allocated to goals residents identified that HUD will allow us to spend the money on.
Are there residents involved in the planning and decisions?
Yes. Tree Street residents, the City of Lewiston, and community partners worked together to identify what is needed to transform the Tree Streets. The result is the Growing Our Tree Streets Transformation Plan which created goals for this work based on residents’ perspectives, values, and needs.
Choice Initiative funding is based on what residents want. It is the funding that puts the Plan into action. We are also working closely with the residents of the 92 apartments that will be replaced to connect them with support and services and make sure they have what they need to transition to new housing. Many of these Choice residents have also offered feedback on what they need in the new housing.
We had a series of meetings over the summer of 2021 to solicit feedback from Choice residents. Our Resident Success Team has ongoing open dialogue with Choice residents. We also have started identifying residents for resident leadership positions. They will have opportunities to be involved in the planning process and be liaisons for other residents.
Are immigrant and BIPOC communities involved in this work?
Our transformation plan created the path forward for this work. During the planning process, we made sure we reached out to a lot of different residents – and kept track of who we were speaking to. We assessed populations in the neighborhood and knew that our plan needed to include many voices: New Mainers, parents, people who are unhoused, and many others. We did a lot of outreach to many different communities to include them in the process. As a result, several cultural considerations are being addressed through this work, including leveraging partner funding to support the development of culturally aware childcare. We are also working toward including more people of color and ethnic community-based organizations on our Implementation Work Group.
Does the Choice Initiative address homelessness?
Choice Initiative’s work is based on the Growing Our Tree Streets Transformation Plan. The Plan was created with the input of over 400 people who live in the Tree Streets neighborhood, including people who are unhoused. The Plan has goals related to providing access to a warming shelter and developing supportive housing for people who are unhoused.
Part of addressing homelessness in Lewiston includes building more housing. Right now, the housing market is hard for many people because apartments and homes are more expensive. The more we increase the number of apartments (the supply), the better we can address the overall challenges (the demand). The Choice Initiative will increase the number of apartments available in Lewiston. This work will also help prevent homelessness by addressing many poverty-related challenges Tree Street residents have that put them at risk of homelessness.
Additionally, 20% of the units built through this project offer preference for people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, or have disabilities.
Where do I find more information? Is it available in languages other than English?
The most updated information about the Choice Initiative is on our updates page. We will also post updates around the neighborhood and provide updates through our partners. We will work to translate important documents and updates into Arabic, French, Portuguese, and Somali.
If someone has an idea or a concern, who do they reach out to?
You can reach out to the Choice Initiative’s Neighborhood Development Planner, Jacqueline Cruset.
Who will be able to afford the new Choice Initiative homes?
Choice Initiative funding will help build 185 new apartment homes in the Tree Streets. Of those 185, 92 will replace existing distressed Section 8 units, 38 will be new affordable workforce units, and 55 will be market rate unrestricted units. Here’s a little more about how that breaks down.
This funding will help replace 92 apartments from different sites across the city. Those 92 apartments will be affordable based on federal income limits. These federal income limits change from year to year and depend on the funding source used to build and manage the development. When income limits are available, we will publish the information.
Choice funding will also help build 38 new apartments that must be affordable for working families based on federal income limits. These federal income limits change from year to year. For the most current list of income limits for this kind of housing, you can check this document. The income limits will change before the building is built and this is not an accurate number for apartment eligibility purposes. These apartments must be affordable for 50 years.
Choice funding will also help build 55 market rate apartments, which means there are no income limits on who can live there. While there is no upper income limit, we will require that people are able to afford the unit. Our test for that is that at least 40% of their monthly income covers rent to ensure people are not rent-burdened.
How will people get into new apartments? Who do they speak to? When? Who will get to live there?
Lewiston Housing will manage the new apartments after they are built. You can sign up here if you are interested in learning when waitlists open. Please note that this is an interest list and not a wait list. All people on the interest list will be notified when Lewiston Housing starts taking applications. Signing up on this list won’t guarantee an apartment.
Choice Initiative funding will help build housing at a few different income levels: subsidized housing, workforce housing, and market-rate housing. The apartments or amenities tenants have access to will not differ based on how much a tenant pays for rent. For example, a one-bedroom apartment rented to a Section 8 tenant will be the same as a one-bedroom apartment rented to a market-rate tenant.
Where will the new housing be located? When will it be available?
New housing will be in three different locations:
- – Wedgewood: 8 buildings, 74 units on Pierce/Pine/Bartlett/Walnut Streets. Right now we anticipate that construction will start in Winter 2023 and will take over a year.
- – Dewitt: 2 buildings, 71 units with first floor commercial space on Pine Street across from Kennedy Park. We will announce the anticipated construction start date when we know what it is.
- – 100 Ash Street: 2 buildings, 40 units on Ash Street between Bates and Bartlett Streets. We aren’t sure what the timeline for building and move-in will be.
Choice Funding Questions
I hear there is funding for supporting youth – what will the opportunities look like? For who? When?
Choice and partners are funding will fund positions at Tree Street Youth and the Root Cellar:
- Tree Street Youth will guide, support, and troubleshoot family and youth relationships with the public education system, and to coordinate participation in TSY’s out of school enrichment programs.
- The Root Cellar will engage and mentor neighborhood children and youth in year-round leadership, high school completion, and career-building programs.
This work will start sometime this summer. Any neighborhood youth are welcome to take part in the programs that make sense for them.
Will there be improvements made to green spaces and recreational opportunities, or new spaces?
Yes! This is already happening. Part of our work is to increase safe places to play and gather throughout the Tree Streets Neighborhood. As many people know, there is a new sledding hill and soccer field on Bartlett Street at Mike McGraw Park. There are also sitting areas, trails, and an orchard there. We are also installing public art around the neighborhood including in vacant lots. Soon we will start on work that will improve Kennedy Park, including new sitting areas, wheelchair charging stations, and game tables.
As this work continues, funding will pay to improve sidewalks and increasing green spaces around the neighborhood where Lewiston people can play and gather.
Can people access funds from the Choice Initiative for their own housing renovations/improvements or ideas they want to build in the community?
As part of the commitment to implementing Growing our Tree Streets the City offers a number of residential funding programs to assist property owners in improving their buildings. You can find out more regarding these programs on the City website.
Is the new housing all rental apartments? Are you building any single-family houses or multi-units that I can buy?
The Choice Initiative will fund a program called the Choice Housing Opportunity Fund, which will support the building of new, owner-occupied homes and rental units.
I already own a home or rental units in the Choice neighborhood. Is there Choice money (grants or loans) available for me to fix them up? Is there any Choice money available to help me buy a single- or multi-unit home in the neighborhood?
As part of the commitment to implementing the Growing Our Tree Streets Transformation Plan, the City offers a number of residential funding programs to help property owners improve their buildings, even single family homes and multi-unit homes. Information on housing programs can be found on the City website.
I own a business in the Choice neighborhood. Are there any programs that will help me improve my business so it’s a better neighborhood asset that creates good jobs?
Yes! The City offers commercial grant and loan programs that can assist a variety of business needs, including renovations or working capital. For information on current commercial programs, visit the City website.