Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant addresses the crowd before cutting the ribbon on Laconia Plaza on Thursday. Brad Favreau, economic development coordinator, is shown at left. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant addresses the crowd before cutting the ribbon on Laconia Plaza on Thursday. Brad Favreau, economic development coordinator, is shown at left. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Residents and tourists, walkers, runners and those who just want to lounge around have a new place to do so in Biddeford, with the long-awaited opening of Laconia Plaza along the Biddeford RiverWalk on Thursday.

Dozens of residents, along with city and state officials and members of the press gathered at the spot along the Saco River, the Saco Falls roaring in the background, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the park’s opening.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, center, and other city and state officials cut the ribbon on the new Laconia Plaza, located along the city's RiverWalk on Thursday. From left: Brad Favreau, Marin Grohman, Casavant, Norman Belanger and Michael Swanton. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, center, and other city and state officials cut the ribbon on the new Laconia Plaza, located along the city’s RiverWalk on Thursday. From left: Brad Favreau, Marin Grohman, Casavant, Norman Belanger and Michael Swanton. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Brad Favreau, the city’s economic development coordinator said the plaza, styled in similar fashion to a Greek amphitheater, was an extension of the city’s signature RiverWalk, which city officials hope to connect to Elm Street along the river.

City residents, officials and members of the press gather at Laconia Plaza on Thursday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

City residents, officials and members of the press gather at Laconia Plaza on Thursday. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Officials also hope for the installation of two more pedestrian bridges across the river into neighboring Saco, in addition to the existing one parallel to the traffic bridge on Main Street.

“This is a particularly dramatic spot along our ongoing phases of the RiverWalk,” Favreau said, holding a set of oversized scissors.

Mayor Alan Casavant spoke at a brief ceremony before cutting the red ribbon cordoning off the newly-constructed plaza, which features 45 tons of reclaimed granite from the demolition of other older city buildings.

“It’s such a cool space in which to be,” Casavant said. “I didn’t even know (the falls) existed because it was all walled off. And now here we are opening it up to the general public and I think that’s really, really fantastic.”

Casavant thanked City Planner Greg Tansley, along with several local and federal agencies including the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, for their work in constructing the plaza.

He also praised Doug Sanford, owner and developer of the Pepperell Mill Complex — to which Laconia Plaza is adjacent — and Scott Joslin, the campus’ chief operating officer for their work in revitalizing the city’s mill district.

“I would have to argue that what Doug and Scott … have been instrumental in their vision of allowing us to tie this all together. It’s the perfect example of how a public-private partnership can work,” Casavant said.

Sanford, who also spoke at the ceremony, said the current development within the city’s downtown core is pushing Biddeford into a prosperous new age of “world-class” proportions.

“We are at a big time in Biddeford,” Sanford said. “We need to take advantage of this moment. The momentum is here and this community is just beginning.”

Casavant agreed, saying the addition of places like Laconia Plaza continually shape the city’s identity.

“This is a stunning, interesting spot and it’s just another piece of the puzzle of what Biddeford is becoming,” he said.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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