BIDDEFORD — As the new year begins, it’s time to reflect on what happened during the year that’s passed. In Biddeford, signs of revival in the downtown were a common theme during the year. Changes from past practices also occurred, and, as always, some tragic events took place.

One such event took place at the beginning of 2014. On Jan. 14, Kathy Duke, a long-time co-director of Stone Soup Food Pantry, died of cancer at the age of 73.

Duke, who was the public face of the pantry, was remembered fondly by those who knew her.

Jodi Bissonnette, director of York County Food Rescue, a program of Stone Soup Food Pantry, called Duke a person who always thought of others before herself.

“She was an angel,” said Bissonnette. “She has always, always been there for people.”

The Biddeford Municipal Airport, which has long been a contentious issue in Biddeford, got more support from city council than in recent years.

The Airport Commission was reinstated ”“ it was disbanded in 2007 ”“ and new funding for approximately 1,500 feet of fencing and two electronic gates at the property was approved.

Airport Commission Chairman Rick Laverriere said he hopes to get more projects approved in the new year.

An after-school youth organization found a new home. After raising more than $400,000, the Community Bicycle Center, which helps at-risk youth build skills and self-esteem through bicycle activities finally moved out of its cramped quarters on Hill Street, where it had been located since 2005.

The new location, at 45 Granite St., is 4,200 square feet.

“The new space is awesome,” said Katerina Parker, a fifth-grade student at Biddeford Intermediate School, at the opening, who has attended to the CBC for three years. “There’s a lot more room for more kids at once,” she said.

For the first time, in the November general election, Biddeford voters who wished to vote in person on Election Day all went to the Biddeford High School Tiger Gym. A committee appointed by Mayor Alan Casavant had recommended consolidating voting from three locations to a single polling place.

City Clerk Carmen Morris deemed the consolidated polling place a success.

To the disappointment of many, the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Program’s last seal release took place on Granite Point in Biddeford in June.

A university press release announcing the MARC closure stated that the school was “developing new undergraduate marine sciences programs to meet growing demand and career opportunities.”

Several devastating fires took place in the city’s densely populated downtown area.

An arson fire on Sept. 18 at 35 Main St. claimed the lives of two men, James Ford, 21, and Michael Moore, 23.

Dylan Lee Collins, 18, of Center Street in Biddeford, was charged with setting the fire and two counts of murder.

On Nov. 16, 19 tenants at 25 Green St. became homeless when a fire ravaged the 12-unit, three-story building.

While one old local business, Youland’s Jewelers on Main Street, began a going-out-of-business sale at the end of last year, a number of new ventures started in the Biddeford downtown and mill district.

An old business, the Palace Diner at 16 Franklin St., is under new ownership. After being closed for several months, the restaurant re-opened in March to rave reviews, including being a nominee for Bon Appétit magazine’s national top 10 list of restaurants.

Two winners of the Main Street Challenge Encore opened their doors. The city and downtown revitalization organization Heart of Biddeford sponsored the challenge, which provides incentives to fill vacant store fronts in the city center. Leather goods store Desert Moon opened during the summer at 156 Main St. Biscuits & Company, which sells biscuit-based products, opened in December at 25 Alfred St. On its opening weekend, business was brisk, and several customers said they enjoyed the food.

“I was here for breakfast,” said Ralph Jacques of Biddeford. “I had sausage gravy on a biscuit.”

Later, he said, he called his wife, Charlotte, and asked her to meet him at the biscuit café for lunch.

“So far, our family is very, very happy,” said Charlotte Jacques about the food they’ve tasted. “We’re spreading the news.”

Like the downtown, the mills have also been experiencing growth and development.

The Pepperell Mill Campus has several new businesses that have opened, like clothing line angelrox’s manufacturing base ”“ or will open soon, such as Portland Pie restaurant and The Yard, an indoor adventure playground.

Developer Nathan Szanton’s The Szanton Company received the financing necessary to begin another large residential development in one of the Riverdam Mill buildings. In 2010, Szanton created a 66-unit residential development in another Riverdam building.

The new, $15 million project will include renovation of the former mill building and create an 80-unit housing development. The majority of the units will be workforce, or affordable, apartments.

Plans for the biggest mill district renovation to date received conditional approval by the planning board in early December. Atlantic Holdings, LLC plans to invest $50 million to rehabilitate the Lincoln Mill.

When completed, which will be sometime in 2017, the Lincoln Hotel & Lofts, at 17 Lincoln St., would include approximately 100 market-rate apartments, an 80-room boutique hotel, a rooftop pool with a bar, two restaurants with signature chefs, a 5,000-square-foot event venue with four additional meetings rooms, and a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the art fitness facility for use by both apartment residents and hotel guests.

“What drew us to this project is way beyond the bricks and mortar of the building itself; it is the spirit of community and cooperation every step along the way from city leaders,” said Atlantic Holdings Principal Tim Harrington. “I really don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a project as this one.”

Another mill district project that was completed this year was the installation of a pedestrian bridge, which connects the twin cities of Biddeford and Saco.

“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Hilda Shelton, a resident of Saco Island Terrace Condominiums, as she watched the bridge installation on Sept. 24. “It’s going to be a lot handier to go across the bridge to North Dam Mill to go to the coffee shop and downtown Biddeford. There’s so much going on on that side.”

On Aug. 28, something that many in Biddeford had also been waiting a long time for occurred.

The Lincoln clock tower, which had been removed from its perch atop the Lincoln Mill in 2007 and set on the adjacent ground where it had been deteriorating, was moved.

During the evening hours on Aug. 28, the 13-ton E. Howard & Co. clock and tower, constructed in 1853, were lifted by crane and situated on a low trailer bed. A portion of Main Street was closed for a short time, as the clock tower journeyed from its former location on Lincoln Street to its new location in the parking lot of the Pepperell Mill Campus.

Scott Joslin and George Collard are the co-owners of the clock tower. They have a one-year lease with Pepperell Mill Campus owner Doug Sanford to locate the clock tower on his property.

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

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