BIDDEFORD — Bob Trimmer’s South Street neighborhood has been through a lot over the years, but nothing more wrenching than the murders of two men near the corner of Green Street in 2009.

Emotions resurfaced during the demolition last year of the dilapidated homes that stood at the corner of South and Green streets, constant reminders of the killings and the struggles of one of Biddeford’s poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods.

“It put closure on a lot of things for a lot of people,” Trimmer said.

Now, the city is poised to expand a small park onto the land where convicted murderer Rory Holland’s house stood. It’s another symbolic step toward cleaning up and revitalizing a neighborhood that is described as a historic gateway to downtown but has struggled with drugs and crime.

“The neighborhood has come a long way,” Trimmer said Monday afternoon as he walked past the property at 58 South St., which the city took from Holland by eminent domain in 2012. The lot is now clear except for a few trees.

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on the design plans for Williams Court Park’s extension, which would double the size of the park and create more open green space in a neighborhood with multi-family apartment buildings and few yards.

The South Street neighborhood is just off Elm Street and several blocks from Main Street. When the city’s textile mills were booming, the neighborhood was home to many of the mill workers.

Williams Court Park, tucked between apartment buildings at the end of a narrow street, was built in 2011 with federal Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization funds. The city razed three dilapidated buildings to create the small grassy area and courtyard overlooking St. Joseph’s Church and the downtown area.

The park is anchored by a lantern cast from molds of the hands of neighborhood residents, including family members of Derek and Gage Greene, the brothers who were shot to death by Holland on the sidewalk and street there in 2009.

Holland, a two-time mayoral candidate who was a controversial figure in Biddeford for years, is serving two life sentences for killing the brothers in front of his house in the early morning of June 30, 2009.

It was shortly after midnight. The Greene brothers and several other young men were walking along South Street and saw Holland outside his house. Gage Greene approached and shoved Holland, who responded by pulling a handgun from his waistband and shooting the teenager in the chest.

Derek Greene ran toward the spot where his brother had fallen, and Holland shot him in the chest and abdomen.

After Holland’s trial, the city paid $30,000 for his property with plans to improve access and expand the park. Holland was not expected to get any of the money because Tammy Cole, the mother of Derek and Gage Greene, won a $2.4 million wrongful-death lawsuit against him.

Neighbors watched and cheered as the house was demolished. City councilors see the park as another positive step for the community.

“This is letting the neighborhood move forward,” said Councilor Bob Mills, whose ward includes the South Street neighborhood. “Now is their time, and I think they’ll be very proud of this park.”

Renovations to the park are expected to cost about $100,000 and be paid with federal Community Development Block Grants designated for improvements in low-income neighborhoods. The project will include repairs to the retaining wall and sidewalks around the property.

Linda Waters, the city’s community development director, said people who live in the area were involved with designing the park and seem excited by the improvements to the neighborhood. The park will include a community garden and benches placed under trees at the request of residents.

The lantern, designed as a sign of hope for the neighborhood, will be moved to a more prominent spot at the front of the park.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s been so very worth it,” Waters said. “I’m really excited for the neighborhood.”

The city’s Recreation Committee has recommended that the design include plenty of green space so children and families can have a place to play and have picnics. A simple design would also be less costly for the city to maintain, said recreation director Carl Walsh.

Samuel Elie, 16, who lives in the neighborhood, said the many children there need more space to play.

“It will be better if it’s a park for little kids,” said Elie, who hopes his neighbors will respect and take care of the park.

Mills, who lives in the neighborhood, said residents now take more pride in the community than they did even a few years ago. He said landlords are cleaning up their properties and other people “feel encouraged to stay and buy properties in the neighborhood.”

“I’m proud of this neighborhood,” he said. “They’ve been so patient in waiting, and I think this park is showing it’s worth the wait.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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