2017-10-12 / Neighbors

Biddeford furniture company makes move across city line

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

SACO – A longtime furniture company will relocate from Biddeford’s historic mill district as the business landscape around it begins to change.

The Saco Economic Development Commission unanimously approved the building design of Richardson Allen’s new production building on Lot 5 in Mill Brook Business Park. The park is located off Route 1, a mile north of I-195. It is 70 acres total and consists of 10 lots ranging in price from $106,000 to $422,000.

At the commission’s meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, Richardson Allen’s owner Sam Butler said his production facility needs more space, as a brewery and vodka distillery have moved in next to him. He considered moving into Pepperell Mill Campus, but said driving in Biddeford has become a problem. Richardson Allen makes outdoor furniture for commercial and residential settings.

“We are very proud of it and excited to bring it over the river,” Butler said.

Construction was expected to begin Friday, Oct. 6.

“Due to current negotiations with our landlord in Biddeford we are not able to discuss the details of our move at this time,” Butler wrote in an email. “We have been residents of Saco for many years and are very excited to join Saco’s lively business community and to break ground on our new location in Mill Brook Park.”

The park’s covenant states that any construction or design must be approved by the city. The area was developed by the city in November 2005 as a planned business/industrial park.

Once a business agrees to build on a lot, it has two years to do so. The city has the ability to buy back a lot that is being held for investment reasons and not being developed.

“The city has the right to do it. The city does not want to do that,” said Economic Development Director Bill Mann.

Two lots in the park have tenants and two are under construction, one of which is Richardson Allen. The other is a manufacturing firm that is relocating within Maine.

Mann did not wish to comment on that deal until it was finalized. Six lots are still available in the business park, Mann said, and he is in active discussions with three possible occupants.

“There’s a lot of businesses growing and that’s good,” Mann said.

Lots 1 and 2 in the business park have less than three usable acres apiece, some of the smallest available, and may be sold as one. The move would require approval from the planning board in addition to the Economic Development Commission. The combination of the two lots would require an alternate access point north of the two lots. If the two lots were combined, the setback requirement between them would be eliminated, which would allow for more building space.

“We’re amenable to moving forward with the discussion, but we’re going to need more details,” said commission member Andrea Morsehead.

Members also discussed the proposed development of the east side of Factory Island at September’s meeting. Bernie Saulnier, of Saulnier Development, plans to build a $40 million apartment, hotel, restaurant and marina complex on the island’s six undeveloped acres. Saulnier’s plan includes connecting the river walk to the development and extending it around the edge of the island. The city of Saco wants the new path to be wide enough to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, according to Mann, the Saco River Corridor Commission prefers a narrower path that would be less disruptive of the natural environment.

“(The corridor commission) recognizes the importance of this being done well and recognizes this is the largest project they’ve ever been involved with. They want to be supportive,” Mann said. Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com.

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