After years of discussions, construction of a key component of downtown Biddeford’s RiverWalk project broke ground Tuesday.

Biddeford Mayor Mayor Alan Casavant joined other city officials and project partners from Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital and Amber Infrastructure Group to break ground on the city’s new 640-space parking garage Tuesday morning.

The garage is one of the first steps the city is taking to revitalize the mill district, and city officials hope it will facilitate the area’s economic development. The garage was initially the source of contentious debate, as some residents felt that public dollars shouldn’t be put toward a project that benefits only a few private entities.

As a result, the city partnered with Treadwell, an infrastructure development firm based in Yarmouth, to finance the project.

The garage will be built on city-owned land, but constructed and financed by Treadwell and its partner, Amber. Treadwell President and CEO Stephen Jones explained in an interview Monday that the project’s entirely private funding will be repaid from parking revenues. Treadwell also will be responsible for building and developing parts of the city’s RiverWalk, including a bridge connecting the western edge of the mill district to downtown.

“It shatters the old stereotype of the city being nothing more than a dying mill town, it provides the needed parking spaces to be a catalyst for future development within the district, and it is a symbol of pride in who we are as a people,” Casavant said of the garage at the ceremony, according to a news release from his office.

When completed, the RiverWalk will span from Mechanics Park, at the corner of Main and Water streets, to Diamond Match Park, which is across Elm Street off Gooch Street. The first phase completed in 2012 begins at Mechanics Park, crosses Main Street to the mill district and includes an overlook.

Other phases included expansion of the walkway and a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Saco River and connects to the Saco RiverWalk.

Though the coronavirus has shuttered businesses across the nation, Jones said the longevity of the RiverWalk project will far outlast that of the pandemic.

“This project will be at least a year and a little more before it is complete, and its life will go on for 40 to 60 years. So, while everyone has been concerned about economic performance during the pandemic, this project has a life that goes far beyond that,” Jones said. “Everybody is going to be focused on reinvigorating local economies and providing jobs, and there’s nothing that creates jobs like infrastructure, so we actually think that if anything, it’s absolutely the right thing to be doing right now.”

Construction on the garage is expected to be completed by July 2021.


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