2014-07-10 / Front Page

Tenants create parking crunch at Pepperell mill

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Several businesses are poised to lease space in the Pepperell Center by the end of the year, creating an influx of activity that will likely impact available parking downtown.

The Pepperell Center, located at the corner of Laconia and Main streets, occupies Building 13 of the campus and has been renovated this year to accommodate a variety of commercial uses.

Portland Pie Company, a restaurant specializing in gourmet pizzas, salads, appetizers and sandwiches, will be the anchor business of the center, and will be located in the front of the building. Scott Joslin, general manager for Eastland Construction and Management, Inc., which manages Pepperell Mill Campus properties, said the company is expected to open its Biddeford restaurant by the end of the year. Portland Pie Company will lease 5,500 square feet to operate a high-volume, 150-seat restaurant.

The company owns six restaurants throughout New England, and typically grosses more than $2 million in sales at each location: Portland, Scarborough and Westbrook; Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire; and Reading, Massachusetts.

Joslin said other businesses that have committed to leasing space will all but fill up the entire first floor of the center, with only 10,000 square feet of available space left over.

The largest space is being leased by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, which just moved from a 3,000-square-foot space in North Dam Mill to a 7,000-square-foot space in the center. The company manufactures outdoor gear such as backpacks and tents, and is using its space for cut-andsew operations.

Roxi Suger and Julian Schlaver, who own Angelrox, a women’s apparel company at 25 Alfred St, have also leased 5,000 square feet of space in Pepperell Center for cut-andsew operations, Joslin said.

Joslin believes Angelrox will be in the center within two months.

“They were bursting at the seams, and knew they were going to need a fairly large chunk of space,” Joslin said. “Now we have two cut-and-sew operations in the old textile mills. It’s really something to see the rows of sewing machines all lined up.”

A yet-to-be-named distillery has made a commitment to lease 2,600 square feet in the center, and Joslin said the company is due to move within several months. Joslin said he believes Portland Pie Company is likely to sell the spirits made by the distillery, as well as beer made by Banded Horn Brewery, also located in the center.

“I think there will be some good synergy there,” Joslin said.

Also moving in to 2,500 square feet in the center is Hands Free Vehicle Technologies, LLC, which is currently located at 109 Alfred St. The company focuses on the sales and installation of hands-free automated Bluetooth devices for automobiles, and is expected to locate to the center within several months.

Banded Horn Brewery, Impact Fitness and Maine Pie Company are already leasing space in the center and open for business. With the first floor almost completely full with tenants, Joslin said the next step will be to get planning board approval for the renovation of the second floor. Joslin is optimistic that once the second floor becomes available it will go fast. Two colleges, which Joslin did not want to name, have already approached him about leasing space in the center.

“We very much want colleges to be a part of the mill district,” Joslin said. “They fit right into what we’re trying to do here.”

Joslin said the management company tried to negotiate with the city for an option to lease 30 to 40 spaces in the city-owned Foss Street parking lot, but city officials did not want to commit. At $25 to $30 or more per month per space, Joslin said the city would have been able to generate a minimum of $800 a month of revenue.

“The public parks there for free, but parking isn’t free. It costs money to maintain,” Joslin said. “(The city) could get revenue to serve the people and offset the tax costs of running the thing.”

Without securing a definite agreement, Joslin said parking spots are not guaranteed for new tenants.

“We’ve been stingy about allocating parking to anybody,” Joslin said, “only allocating to those who need it or want to pay for it.”

Joslin said Portland Pie Company asked to secure 30 parking spots for their exclusive use as part of the lease, but Pepperell Mill Campus could not designate the spaces for them. Joslin said he has encouraged Portland Pie Company to negotiate with the city directly about leasing parking from the Foss Street lot.

The parking lot directly in front of Pepperell Center, said Joslin, will be redesigned and converted into 20 parking spaces for handicap accessibility or short-term use up to 30 minutes.

Mayor Alan Casavant said negotiations with Pepperell Mill Campus over the Foss Street lot never solidified because councilors were skeptical of allocating parking spots for an uncertain use.

“We were not willing to tie something up with a maybe,” Casavant said. “We would need something concrete before going to the council with a proposal.”

City Manager John Bubier said, “We basically said to (Pepperell Mill Campus), ‘When you have a deal put together, we will engage with you on a big project.’ When they’re close to getting a deal, we’ll sit down and talk with them.”

Bubier said Joslin has not contacted the city about acquiring parking spaces for Portland Pie Company.

Bubier referenced the possibility of a hotel moving into the mills as the type of project for which the city may wish to help the campus acquire parking. Joslin said the campus is in negotiations with a hotel developer that is likely to start a project in the mills.

“If there’s going to be a hotel, we would like to see one there and would help in any way we can,” Bubier said. “We’re on standby and prepared to talk to anybody that they send to us.”

Joslin said there are 600 people who live or work in the old mill, but at full buildout, the mill will eventually have 1,700 people located on the campus.

The increased interest in the Pepperell Mill Campus, he added, is indicative of Biddeford’s changing image.

“(Portland Pie Company) felt strongly that it’s established-emerging, not speculative-emerging,” Joslin said. “The world is looking at Biddeford-Saco and saying not ‘if,’ but ‘when.’” Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at courier.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

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