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April 12, 2019

Biddeford’s mixed-use project at Riverdam Mill moves forward 

Riverdam Mill development Courtesy / City of Biddeford Seen here is a conceptual rendering of the proposed Riverdam Mill redevelopment in Biddeford.

A mixed-use project proposed for the 330,000-square-foot Riverdam Mill in Biddeford will move forward with the city council approval of key aspects of the plan.

The council approved the plan for an easement agreement, Americans with Disabilities Act access and a credit enhancement with project developer Riverdam LLC.According to an April 5 news release, the project would include 13,300 square feet of commercial space and 70 units of housing.

As part of the project, 10% of the housing units would be restricted for the next 20 years as affordable housing. The proposed agreement will give the city permanent easements to the land between the Riverdam building and the river wall to expand the RiverWalk, as well as permanent ADA access for the RiverWalk via the building’s elevators.

The RiverWalk project, which will open up public access to the river and provide necessary pedestrian connections through the downtown, is reliant on the easements in order to move forward.

“This proposal allows the city to continue our plans for the river,” Mayor Alan Casavant said in the release. “It also allows the RiverWalk to become a focal point of all the new development and activity that we see in the downtown and mill district. The Riverdam developer has an excellent reputation, and with his partnership, we can open up of the RiverWalk for all to enjoy.”

The proposal also says that the city will provide financial assistance in the form of credit enhancement tax increment financing for the demolition of the southwest corner of the building, due to structural issues. The proposed plan calls for developing the corner area into a new outside courtyard space that will run along the RiverWalk.

“Over the past 10 years, interested parties have walked away from this particular site due to its structural issues, and it can take years for another proposal like this to come around again,” Marc Lessard, who is on the town council, said in the release. “Investment begets investment, and we are in a really hot spot right now to be able to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities.”

The city manager will next prepare the agreements for review and acceptance by the city council at a future meeting. Riverdam harks back to the booming era of Biddeford's booming textile mills in the early 1900s. The city's mill district development plan includes residential, commercial and industrial use, plus parking and the RiverWalk. Bounded by Main Street, Lincoln Street and the Saco River, the district includes about 2 million square feet of mill space and the site where the former Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator was located.

Across the street from the Riverdam Mill, Portland developers Jim Brady and Brian Eng earlier this month entered into a master plan agreement with the city of Biddeford to develop the former Maine Energy Recovery Co. site, at 3 Lincoln St. The developers seek to incorporate a mixture of residential, retail, office, hospitality, education and service uses with the proposed parking structure, RiverWalk and riverside park, according to a news release.

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