Biddeford officials are looking for people to help ‘Design the Park at Pearl Street,’ at a 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27 session downtown, at the site. Here is a map of where the new park will be located. People will be asked to weigh in on three design concepts. Courtesy image/City of Biddeford

BIDDEFORD — What would you like to see in a new park? That’s the question that will be put to Biddeford residents at a “Design the Park at Pearl Street” session, to be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27.

“As part of the upcoming RiverWalk expansion and the redevelopment of the 3 Lincoln St. site/Pearl Street riverfront area, a new park will be built along the Saco River,” said Biddeford Communications Coordinator Danica Lamontagne. “We’re asking the public to come out for a (socially-distanced) tour of the site and to provide feedback on three proposed concept designs.”

Planning and Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy said the one-acre site is at the end of the former Maine Energy Recovery Company trash incinerator property on Pearl Street, above the dam on the Saco River.

“It has beautiful vistas across to Saco and the old mill buildings there … it’s quite breathtaking,” said Eddy.

He said the area is quiet.

“It has the potential to be a very tranquil area in the middle of (the) downtown mill district,” said Eddy.

The property includes the old MERC smokestack – which is likely to remain, given telecommunications contracts for space on the column that extend out 15 years. But Eddy said the city is also looking at ways to create a  design around the tall tower-like structure and are mulling what it would look like if transformed into some sort of art work.

Eddy pointed out the RiverWalk extension is already approved and will connect to the new park, which will be just down the street from a new parking garage.

The Biddeford City Council conducted a visioning process in December and sought proposals for design work, which was awarded to Richardson and Associates of Saco — and then the pandemic hit, which slowed the public process. Now, he said the city is trying to conduct virtual and in-person involvement at safe distances.

Those interested will gather under the Blaze Brewing Company tent on Pearl Street to look at what designers have created, and weigh in.

The Downtown Development Commission, Heart of Biddeford and city staff are taking part.

A new park is expected to cost about $300,000 to $400,000, depending on whether it will have features like an entertainment pavilion, the amount of material needed, and final designs. At a recent workshop, the City Council was presented with a concept plan for use of Route 111 – Mill Redevelopment TIF revenues as a funding source, Eddy said, but no decisions have been finalized.

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