The Continental Mill along the Androscoggin River in Lewiston was sold to a New Hampshire developer Tuesday. Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — After nearly an hour of stops and starts, Eric Chinburg bought the 560,000-square-foot Continental Mill on Tuesday morning with a $650,000 bid.

Eric Chinburg, president and CEO of Chinburg Properties of Newmarket, New Hampshire, bought the Continental Mill in Lewiston at auction Tuesday. Sun Journal photo by Kathryn Skelton

“You made my day,” Sonia Roy Tracy told him, giving him a hug.

The massive mill has been in her family since the 1960s. It had sat on the market for a while, most recently for $1.5 million, before heading to Tuesday’s real estate auction.

“It’s the right buyer,” Tracy said. “They’re going to make it beautiful again, and that’s what we wanted.”

Chinburg, president and CEO of Chinburg Properties based in Newmarket, New Hampshire, specializes in mill redevelopment with Maine projects in Biddeford, Saco and Westbrook.

“Lewiston seems like a great community and I’m really drawn to these historic structures: They’re right on rivers, right in downtowns and they’re irreplaceable and not buildable anymore,” he said. “I am happy, and a little bit surprised. It feels good.”

The auction drew about two dozen people, most there to watch. Stefan Keenan, real estate division manager at Keenan Auction Co., declined to say how many had registered to bid with a $25,000 deposit.

Bidding started slow, first stalling at $100,000 and then $600,000. After the second break in bidding, Keenan announced the reserve had been met.

“The Continental Mill is going to have a new owner in the next few moments,” he said. “We will sell today to the highest bidder, so I encourage if this property fits your needs, get in on our bidding.”

In the end, there were two active bidders.

Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s director of economic and community development, said he was excited to work with new owners with mill redevelopment experience.

The present-day Continental Mill started as the Porter Mill in 1858 before being expanded and renamed in 1866 when the Continental Co. bought it, according to an application with the National Register of Historic Places.

Within a few decades, Continental employed 1,200 people at the cotton mill. In more recent years, it had been home to a few shoe factories and other businesses.

The city had assessed the building complex and its 7 acres at $1.3 million.

Chinburg said an employee found the property and encouraged him to look at it. He toured for the first time a few weeks ago.

“We would envision a mixed-use project with the majority of it being nice, efficient apartments, market-rate, and then a mix of retail, light industrial, commercial (and) office (uses,)” he said. “We will start meeting with municipal officials in the next couple of months and just determine the path toward permitting, and then try to move it along and be hopefully under construction within several months to a year.”


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