2017-02-09 / Front Page

Parking garage could go off Lincoln Street

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor

BIDDEFORD – The Downtown Taskforce Subcommittee has identified two places where a potential parking structure could be located in the city.

Those two locations are at 3 Lincoln St., the former Maine Energy Recovery Co. property, which is owned by the city, or near there, behind Lincoln Mill, closer to Main Street, on property partially owned by developer Doug Sanford and property owned by Tim Harrington, the developer who is poised to rehab Lincoln Mill.

Subcommittee Chairman Bruce Benway said if the latter location – the committee’s number one recommendation – is approved by the city council, a cost for the city to purchase the properties would need to be negotiated with landowners.

“The committee report placed the property between the rear of Lincoln Mill and Pepperrell Building 10 as the primary site; 3 Lincoln St. is the secondary site,” Benway said. “Beside Pepperrell Building 10, there is a parking lot. From that parking lot to Lincoln Street Mill, there is this berm and a row of trees. In back of Lincoln Street Mill there’s an open area that might require demolition of a small building that’s there.”

Any plan for a parking structure downtown, Benway said, is contingent on council approval.

The city of Biddeford purchased the 8.5 acre former MERC property for $6.5 million, in 2012. In 2014, the city paid nearly $100,000 to Camoin Associates from the city’s Tax Increment Financing fund to determine the best use for the site.

Dan Stevenson, the city’s economic development director, said the study indicated that a parking structure would be needed to support growth on the site.

“If a parking garage would go on that site, there’s room for commercial activity,” he said.

According to the subcommittee, the plan is to finance the facility in a way that won’t affect taxpayers.

“First, we couldn’t make a decision based on what happened yesterday or what’s happening today,” Benway said in a press release provided by the committee. “It was imperative that we think two and three years down the road, at least, and think about the implications of downtown growth that is already in the planning stages. We also recognized access to the Saco River is opening up dramatically and that’s going to have a direct influence on pedestrian flow and other very important considerations. That river and its falls will be a prominent symbol of an economically revitalized Biddeford.”

Benway said six properties were considered for a potential parking structure, including Washington Street.

“We thought there was more of a drawback to that in terms of the ability to do future expansion,” he said.

The committee also looked at the lot near the police station on Alfred Street, an area on Foss and Emery streets and property on Center Street, behind Biddeford City Hall.

Benway said a parking structure on the Lincoln Mill/ former MERC property would benefit more than those businesses located in the mills.

“Would it benefit just the mill district? Obviously not,” he said.

“They both provide good proximity to the areas of the downtown and mill district areas of Biddeford in most need of a greater supply of parking,” according to the committee’s report. “These two sites would require minimal initial site work and both would provide good access to the RiverWalk. While each one has some drawbacks . . . they both meet the principal goals of spurring development, meeting the existing needs of businesses, supporting the present and future expanded RiverWalk and being flexible enough to meet uncertain future needs in the city.”

Subcommittee members include Bruce Benway, Steve Beaudette, Pete Lamontagne, Julian Schlaver, Delilah Poupore, Mark Robinson and Bill Southwick.

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