March 26, 2018

Biddeford officials count on planned garage to drive more development

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Jim Brady, center, reviews historic plans of the Biddeford Post Office site with Mason Sears, vice president SF Marina Systems, Carla Tracy of Carla Tracy PR, right, and Debbie Fisher, with Fathom Cos., far right, at their office space in Portland. Brady says Biddeford's planned parking garage, due to be built by early 2020, will alleviate the parking bottleneck in downtown Biddeford.

Biddeford city officials are counting on a planned parking garage, due to be built by early 2020, to drive more downtown development.

After getting the green light earlier this month for the site of the long-awaited facility, City Manager James A. Bennett told Mainebiz last week that the project will go out to bid later this year to pick a construction firm once specifications have been decided.

Project costs are expected to total more than $12 million, including $10.5 million for the garage itself, Bennett said. Some 514 parking spaces are foreseen.

Bennett said the exact number of spaces, as well as the final price tag, could change after the Desman design management firm completes its work. The firm, which has provided planning, design and restoration services for over 5,000 parking projects since 1973, operates out of nine U.S. cities, including Boston.

Construction is expected to take nine months to a year.

"If everything stays on schedule," Bennett said, "the garage would open somewhere in the late fall or winter of 2019/2020."

The design firm was selected almost a year ago and got the official nod from the City Council in early March.

Out of three possible locations, councilors at the same meeting decided to locate the parking garage on the site of a former Maine Energy trash incinerator, purchased by the city in 2012 for $6.65 million.

Already since the vote, Bennett said the city has heard from developers interested in putting up their own projects on the former incinerator site now that the garage is proceeding.

"We now have developers that are interested in having more serious discussions with the community," he said. "They're ready to be able to start spending their own money to be looking at that site harder in terms of whether or not it makes sense to do a project there."'

Among developers already a part of the urban renewal city officials like to call the ''Biddesance,' Jim Brady said that while he's not studied the economics of the parking garage, he agrees that parking is needed.

"I'm hoping that the positive momentum currently occurring in Biddeford can continue, and this infrastructure investment will be a needed shot in the arm to provide further opportunities for economic development downtown, creating jobs, housing and a long-term stronger tax base," he said.

Brady, who is based in Portland, is in the midst of converting a former Biddeford courthouse and post office building into office space.

He said he likes Biddeford because it has lots of vacant mill space that can easily and with minimal cost be converted to either office, light industrial and/or residential space (some with use of historic tax credits, making them even more viable). Its location on a beautiful river, as most mill towns are, is another plus.

But he says that what differentiates Biddeford from other Maine mill towns is its proximity to the fast-growing University of New England; transportation, including trains to Boston and Portland and easy access to Interstate 95; being 20 minutes closer to Boston than Portland yet still only 20 minutes from downtown Portland; and amenities such as beaches, Biddeford Pool and a strong community nearby (Kennebunk).


Type your comment here:

Today's Poll Do you believe making zero-interest student loans available to students who agree to live and work in Maine will stem the brain drain of young Mainers leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere?<>
Most Popular on Facebook