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Updated: November 6, 2023

Boutique boomlet in Biddeford? A second high-end hotel may open in trending Maine city

street corner view of four-story building Photo / Alexis Wells On an October afternoon, the potential site of a boutique hotel at 25 Alfred St. in Biddeford sat vacant.
Photo / William Hall
Photo / Alexis Wells
Photo / William Hall
That's an odd name for a building ...
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The opening last year of a swanky downtown hotel was a first for Biddeford, and now there may be a second.

A Massachusetts real estate developer wants to convert a dilapidated, rust-stained, 150-year-old building into a boutique hotel.

The four-story structure, at 25 Alfred St., once housed a lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization. More recently, the brick-and-masonry building was home to a branch of fashion retailer Suger and to a breakfast bistro called Biscuits & Co.

For the past two years, the building has sat vacant. Its interior is gutted, with plaster crumbling and some walls missing, and the exterior is scarred by several boarded-up windows. A proposal to convert the property into 11 market-rate apartments got approval from the Biddeford Planning Board in 2021, but never went anywhere.

On Oct. 18, however, the board voted unanimously to approve a new scheme, the final site plan for converting the Odd Fellows Hall into a hotel. The project has already received go-ahead from the Biddeford Historic Preservation Commission. Portland-based Woodhull, the architect for the apartment proposal, will come up with the blueprint for the currently unbranded property.

The potential owner and developer, Sullivan Capital of Easton, Mass., has said it will create a 24,000-square-foot hotel with 30 rooms, a lobby bar, restaurant and rooftop lounge.

Sound familiar? Perhaps because four blocks away there's another boutique hotel — the Lincoln, with 33 rooms carved out of a textile mill dating to the 1850s. The Lincoln has its own lobby bar, plus a Batson River brewhouse and restaurant, and on the roof, a swimming pool.

That hotel opened in September 2022 as part of a multi-use redevelopment of the 240,000-square-foot mill complex, led by owner Tim Harrington, chairman of Atlantic Hospitality and a 2023 Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year. News media from the New York Times to Forbes magazine crowed about the Lincoln's launch, another sign of what's been called a "biddaissance" for this city of 22,000.

Now Sullivan Capital hopes to capitalize on the success of the predecessor property.

Tyler Cao, a Sullivan partner and investor, told Mainebiz the new contender will be aimed at a "premium boutique" market of guests looking for affordable luxury. While he described the Lincoln's style as '"nouveau decadence, indulgent in every detail," Cao and his firm are looking to create "chic elegance." 

The two will represent "the yin and yang of bespoke luxury," he said.

"I think the Lincoln Hotel is wonderful," Cao added. "Our hotel will complement the Lincoln, punctuating that Biddeford has arrived as a hub of southern Maine tourism."

Facing a crossroad

Sullivan Capital's ambitions for the Odd Fellows Hall run large. While most rooms would be modest in size, according to planning board documents, the hotel would also include five lofts with as much as 757 square feet of space.

The ground-floor restaurant would seat 60. The lobby bar would accommodate another dozen or so. The rooftop lounge would cover nearly 1,800 square feet. The building would get new utilities, wiring, plumbing, safety systems, windows, doors and an elevator. And the exterior would be restored — including a plaque and a sculpture on the facade acknowledging the Odd Fellows.

Courtesy photo
Tyler Cao, of Sullivan Capital

But the project could pose some challenges for Sullivan Capital. To begin with, it isn't yet the owner of 25 Alfred St.

Sullivan is under contract to purchase the property from an LLC known as Biddeford Development Group and hopes to close before Christmas, Cao said last Thursday.

He wouldn't disclose the price, but the seller acquired the property from longtime owner Christopher Betjemann III in January 2021 for $750,000, according to the city assessor.

Sullivan intends to invest between $5 million and $6 million in rehabbing the building before a possible debut in mid-2025, Cao said. Funding will come from limited partners and bank financing. Unlike Biddeford Development Group's previous attempt to create apartments, this plan would not include the use of historic tax credits.

This project would be Sullivan's first in Maine. While the firm specializes in developing condominiums and boutique hotels, it's young. Its initial project was the Coach House, an 11-room hotel in Salem, Mass., that had already long hosted guests as an inn.

The updated Coach House opened barely a year ago, and Cao said the firm is now working on its second hotel, in Gloucester, Mass.

Another potential challenge: location. The site of the planned hotel, at the corner of Alfred and Bacon streets, is a crossroad in more ways than one.

Courtesy /
An aerial view of the proposed hotel site in Biddeford, with Alfred Street extending on the left and Bacon Street on the right.

The Odd Fellows Hall sits adjacent to a decades-old dive bar, already raucous by noon on a recent Saturday. A pawn shop does business a few steps away. The Biddeford police headquarters are just across Bacon Street.

But also adjacent, at 17 Alfred St., there's a bustling grocery market, Part & Parcel. There's new construction down the block. Beyond that, Main Street and the core of the downtown, with award-winning restaurants, the City Theatre, the renovated Pepperell and Lincoln mills, each with high-end businesses and residences — and the Lincoln Hotel.

Danielle O'Neill, who owns Part & Parcel with her wife, welcomes the prospect of a new business next door. "It's long overdue," she said. The building, she added, "has become an eyesore and at times a hazard on our street."

Maybe this mix of old and new, grime and fresh paint, is to be expected. Biddeford is often seen as a city on the cusp, poised between an industrial past and a prosperous, sometimes glamorized future driven by tourism and a creative economy. The Odd Fellows Hall may be at the cusp of the cusp. So will travelers venture there to find upscale accommodations?

"I don’t believe that Biddeford can sustain another hotel in its downtown, without there being more for folks to do in the area," O'Neill said. She cautioned that the block isn't pedestrian-friendly and is poorly maintained, especially during winter.

Betting on boutiques

Part & Parcel opened in May 2018 when a building renovation was underway. The store now has three employees and annual revenue of about $500,000.

"We appreciate the influx of tourism and money spent in downtown," said O'Neill, who's also lived there for 10 years. "But we built our business for the locals and they have shown up for us every day since we opened."

Courtesy / City of Biddeford, Vision GSI
The site of the former Biddeford Odd Fellows Hall, outlined in red, is near Main Street and the downtown. The Lincoln Hotel, which opened in September 2022, is in a former textile mill that appears in the upper-left corner of the map.

How many local residents or anyone else will show up for the proposed hotel is unclear. But despite O'Neill's skepticism, boutique hotels are big business in Maine, often belying their small size.

Twenty miles north In Portland, which saw a boom of major-brand hotel construction over the past decade, there's new interest in small, curated properties. Several boutiques such as Blind Tiger, inside an 1823 mansion on Danforth Street, have popped up since 2020.

The Longfellow is slated to open in March 2024 with 48 rooms at 754 Congress St. It's a wellness-themed boutique and says it's the first Portland hotel constructed in 20 years that isn't part of a large chain. The most recent newcomer was a 102-room branch of Cambria Hotels, part of Choice Hotels International, that opened in October 2022 on the East End.

On Sunday, rooms at the Longfellow were already going for $399 on March 1. At the Lincoln, you'll spend a minimum of $359 for the same night. At the Cambria, rates began at $161, according to its website.

Courtesy / Biddeford Planning Board, Woodhull
The grand hall of the Odd Fellows Hall in Biddeford includes period details and an ornate ceiling, but has fallen into disrepair.

Nationwide, boutique hotel revenues will total $17.6 billion this year and soar to $29.3 billion over the next decade, according to a June report by Future Marketing Insights, an industry research company. Other data show boutique hotels have weathered the pandemic, with room inventory increasing 19% from 2019 to 2022 — compared to a 3.2% uptick for all U.S. hotels.

HospitalityMaine, the trade group for the state's lodging and restaurant industries, wouldn't comment on prospects for Biddeford's hotels or the growth of boutique businesses in Maine. But at Sullivan Capital, Cao isn't worried about the outlook for his project, despite the proximity of a competitor.

"I'm not so pessimistic to think Biddeford can't accommodate another 30 hotel guests," he said. "There's more than enough room for growth, and I don't think of the Lincoln as competition. Instead, it's more like a first mover. We feel gratitude for that."

At the Lincoln, Harrington also sounded an optimistic note.

"I have been reading about the hotel project. I think it’s fantastic and a great sign for Biddeford," he said in a statement to Mainebiz.

"Biddeford has become an incredibly busy city with easy modes of transportation from other cities like Boston and New York. It entices travelers with its burgeoning food scene, gorgeous beaches and eclectic shops. There is definitely a demand for more lodging options. We look forward to welcoming them to the neighborhood."

Courtesy / Woodhull
A rendering shows what the restored exterior of 25 Alfred St. might look like. The former Odd Fellows Hall is slated to become a 30-room boutique hotel.

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