BIDDEFORD — City officials will seek proposals soon for construction of an estimated $15 million parking garage to add as many as 1,000 parking spaces off Main Street.

City Manager John Bubier said the project would likely be funded by revenue from a tax increment financing district that sets aside a portion of the taxes collected from the Biddeford Crossing shopping center for improvements downtown.

“New parking is crucial” to draw businesses to Biddeford, Bubier said.

There are now five municipal parking lots near Main Street, with a total of 373 spaces. Another 567 parking spots are available along the streets downtown, said Daniel Stevenson, the city’s director of economic and community development.

City officials are considering building the garage in one of two spots, Stevenson said.

The primary location is the former parking lot for WestPoint Home employees, with access from York Street. If the garage is built there, Stevenson said, the city would negotiate some form of contract with Doug Sanford, who owns the property.

A municipal parking lot between Washington and Franklin streets is also being considered.

Once proposals are received, Stevenson said, he hopes the city can submit a referendum to voters by November to approve allocating the TIF money to the garage project. If voters approve it, construction of the garage could start as early as the spring of 2012.

“As Main Street fills out, parking fills up. For new businesses to expand, or new businesses to come to town, access to parking for employees and consumers” is necessary, Stevenson said Tuesday.

Redevelopment is continuing in the city’s mill district – about 40 acres of downtown property. North Dam Mill has been renovated for apartment space and offices, and the Mill at Saco Falls opened in the fall with 65 housing units.

With Sanford continuing to plan development of the Pepperell Mill Campus, Stevenson said the city “will be poised for growth.”

Bubier said a parking garage is the next step in continuing to redevelop mill space and attract businesses downtown.

Parking is an issue for Dan Ducharme, the owner of DAD’s Cigar Parlor and Tobacco Shoppe. He decided to open his business on Alfred Street because of the parking lot across the street from his storefront.

“I want to open another business (on Main Street). However, with the lack of parking, I am not going to,” Ducharme said.

While he supports the idea of building a garage in the mill district, Ducharme said a garage off Washington Street would be more central for Main Street businesses and promote foot traffic downtown.

For Walter Buczacz, president of Youland’s Jewelers, parking has been an issue for the 30 years he has worked on Main Street.

“But no one has ever done anything about it,” he said. “It certainly could be a draw to get more storefronts filled up, which would be good.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: ebouthillette@pressherald.com