BIDDEFORD — A storefront formerly occupied by a Renys department store will soon have new tenants.

Tammy Ackerman, executive director of Engine, announced today that the Reny family is donating the building to the nonprofit arts organization. Nearly two dozen people were present during a press conference this afternoon when the announcement was made. Ackerman called the gift “remarkable generosity” on the family’s part.

“When we approached the Reny family, they expressed a strong desire to leave a positive and lasting impact on downtown Biddeford,” Ackerman said. “As a community-based arts organization, Engine is in a perfect position to turn this building into a cultural hub on Main Street. We are simply overjoyed that the Reny family supports this vision.”

The building, located at 129 Main St., is over 100 years old. It offers 19,000 square feet of space on three floors, including a small theater space that once featured small Vaudeville acts that rolled through town. The building was most recently home to Renys until the store moved to its current location in Saco. according to Mary Kate Reny. The building has been vacant since 2007

Bob Reny, whose father, Biddeford native R.H. Reny, founded the department store in 1949, said his father would be proud of their decision.

“The Biddeford store was Dad’s pride and joy,” Bob Reny said. “He would have wanted this building to become something special.”

Engine has set up a feedback page on its website at for members of the community to suggest ideas for the space. Ackerman said she wants to engage the community as much as possible throughout the planning process. The organization plans to take ownership of the building before January and will be working with local architect Caleb Johnson and development firm Thread on a feasibility study to determine the building’s potential.

The planning process is being funded through a $50,000 grant from the Maine Arts Commission. The development of the space will be funded by future grants and private donations, Ackerman said.