BIDDEFORD — There was a good size audience in City Hall council chambers on Tuesday to see first-hand what may one day be seen as a historic moment in Biddeford’s revitalization efforts.

The public watched as the planning board granted conditional approval for the largest development plan in the city’s mill district to date.

Mayor Alan Casavant called the board’s sanction of Lincoln Hotel & Lofts, which includes an 80-room boutique hotel, 100-unit apartment building and two restaurants, a “game changer” for the future of the city.

The $50 million project, being developed by Atlantic Holdings, LLC, to rehabilitate the Lincoln Mill promises to bring 100 or more jobs to the heart of the city.

Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2015 and completed in 2017.

The planning board unanimously approved granting waivers for the project, including one for approximately 50 parking spaces, along with approving the amended site plan/subdivision.

Planning Board member Susan Deschambault said some in Biddeford may think Biddeford couldn’t support such a project, she asked Tim Harrington, the principal of Atlantic Holdings what his vision was.

“We’re at the cusp of something truly amazing,” he said.

Harrington said he didn’t view himself as a pioneer leading the way for redevelopment in the city.

“I think we’re following on the heels of Doug Sanford and others,” he said. “We’re riding on their coattails.”

Harrington said he thought his project was just one of many to come.

He added that he would preserve the history and character of the mill building; the project needs approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. He plans to use state and federal historic tax credits to help finance the project.

Harrington also said he would like to purchase back the historic clock tower that had been removed from the Lincoln Mill in 2007, restore it and place it back atop the mill building.

Earlier this year, the tower was moved to a site at the Pepperell Mill Campus, another property in the mill district.

George Collard, an owner of the clock tower, said he was open to the possibility of selling the tower to Harrington, but liked the idea of it being more accessible to the public.

Planning board members expressed their enthusiasm for the redevelopment project.

“I would like to thank you for taking the risk in Biddeford and having the faith in the people of Biddeford,” Planning Board Chairman Larry Patoine said to Harrington.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for for years,” said Planning Board member Richard “Chico” Potvin II.

In January, Harrington plans to close on his purchase of the Lincoln Mill from the current owner, Odyssey Properties, LLC.

“He’s going to be a great addition to the groundswell” taking place in Biddeford’s mill district, said Christopher Betjemann of Harrington. Betjemann and Greg Bennett are the principals of Odyssey Properties.

The project is going to “exhilarate” development, he said.

Casavant said he was very pleased with Harrington’s plans.

“An investment of this type of money tells developers Biddeford is open for business and a good place to invest,” he said.

In addition, said Casavant, “It demonstrates the importance of eliminating Maine Energy from the downtown.”

The Maine Energy Recovery Company waste-to-energy incinerator was blamed for stalling development in downtown Biddeford for a quarter of a century. In 2012, the city bought the incinerator and closed it down. The site was cleared last year, and the city plans to develop it.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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