BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford Planning Board gave the green light Wednesday to a $50 million project that will transform a prominent downtown mill building.

The Lincoln Hotel and Lofts project, proposed by developer Tim Harrington for the Lincoln Mill, received unanimous final approval from the board.

The Lincoln Hotel and Lofts and other planned projects in the mill district are being touted by city officials as evidence that the removal of a trash incinerator is spurring redevelopment in a downtown that has struggled since the once-bustling textile mills closed decades ago. The newest projects – at the Lincoln Mill and nearby at The Lofts at Saco Falls – sit near the site of the former Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator, which had an odorous presence downtown that city officials said stymied development.

Harrington announced his plans for the hotel and apartment units in November, shortly before Nathan Szanton finalized funding for the $15 million Lofts at Saco Falls project in the Riverdam Mill.

Work also is continuing at the Pepperell Center, where developer Doug Sanford is investing $10 million over the next two years to transform the Pepperell textile mills into the largest mixed-use development in York County. Portland Pie Co. is expected to open a restaurant in the Pepperell Center this month, joining a diverse set of businesses including a brewery and light manufacturing companies.

Both Szanton and Harrington say they would not have invested in the mill district if the city had not purchased the Maine Energy trash incinerator, which operated for about 25 years on a lot adjacent to the mill buildings. The City Council bought the Maine Energy property for $6.65 million more than two years ago.


“The leadership of the City Council to buy the Maine Energy site is really helping to stimulate a lot of this growth,” said Daniel Stevenson, the city’s economic development director. “These projects will also continue to derive growth. We’re going to get more people living in our downtown and more people coming to our downtown. This is fantastic and a very exciting time for the city.”

Harrington’s plans for the former textile mill include 96 apartments, an 81-room hotel, a 150-seat restaurant and a 65-seat restaurant. Harrington, who has been involved with the development of nine hotels and seven restaurants in Kennebunkport, expects to break ground on the project this spring and finish by 2017. He estimates the project will create at least 200 permanent jobs.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to lease a parking lot adjacent to the Lincoln Mill to Harrington for $1 for the next 99 years. The city retained the air rights over the lot, which has about 60 spaces, and could build a parking garage. As part of the agreement with Harrington, the city also will make improvements to the Lincoln Street sidewalks and will not allow a standalone hotel on the Maine Energy site in the next five years. Harrington did not request any tax increment financing from the city.

Stevenson said the Lincoln Mill and The Lofts at Saco Falls projects combined will fill nearly 320,000 square feet of the 710,000 square feet currently vacant in the mill district.

Mayor Alan Casavant said the approval of the Lincoln Mill project and other development activity downtown are exciting for the city.

“(The Lincoln Mill) is a signature building and this is a signature investment,” he said. “I’m enthusiastic about the ripple effect it will have here.”

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