Crews from PC Construction nestle the last concrete slab into place on Biddeford’s parking garage in a “Topping Off” ceremony on Friday morning. The garage project is scheduled to be complete by July 1. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — A cheer went up as onlookers watched a crane operator and a couple of workers on the roof maneuver a concrete slab, decked out with a small evergreen tree and an American flag, into place on top of Biddeford’s new parking garage on Lincoln Street.

The “topping off ceremony” as such events are called, signals completion of a significant portion of a construction project.

Biddeford Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney signs a concrete slab that was later lifted by crane to the top of Biddeford’s new parking garage Friday morning as part of a ‘Topping Off’ ceremony, which signals significant progress on a construction project. Tammy Wells Photo

It was a brisk, bright March morning as city councilors, staff, Mayor Alan Casavant and personnel from PC Construction and Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital and the James W. Sewall Company came together to sign the slab, as is customary, and then watch as a crane operator lifted it high in the air, carefully guiding it towards the roof of the building, where two hard-hatted workers steered it into place.

“It’s a real symbolic day for the city of Biddeford,” said Mayor Alan Casavant as he watched city staff and others sign the slab before the brief ceremony began. “So many said this would never happen here. This demonstrates the city is committed to changing the paradigm of Biddeford from an old mill town to a thriving community.”

“This is a great event for the city of Biddeford,” said PC Construction project manager Mark Donovan, who explained the history of the topping off ceremony that dates back to 700 A.D. He said the evergreen tree signifies an injury free workplace, a blessing of the project moving forward, and the Earth. “It’s a major milestone of the project,” said Donovan.

“I want to thank the city of Biddeford and PC construction to make this project happen; it is a sign of great things to come,” said Sewall and TFIC Development Vice President Matt Dieterick. “I look forward to this being a centerpiece for future development here.”


City officials and company representatives signed their names on the concrete slab used in a ‘Topping Off’ ceremony on Friday, marking significant progress on the parking garage project in Biddeford’s mill district. Tammy Wells Photo

Biddeford’s 640-space parking garage, on the site of the former Maine Energy Recovery Company, is the first private infrastructure financing project of its kind in Maine.

The ground-breaking for the new parking garage — Biddeford’s first — took place Aug. 11. The project, estimated to cost $22 million, is expected to be complete by July 1. Project partners include Biddeford RiverWalk Community 1, LLC — the name for Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital and James W. Sewall Company — Amber Infrastructure Group and PC Construction. Premium Parking will operate services at the garage.

Biddeford RiverWalk Community 1, LLC designed, are building and will manage the parking garage. Biddeford will make annual payments from the Mill District Tax Increment Financing fund, which comes from sheltered property tax payments from businesses and development in the district, and revenues from the parking garage and parking lots, in a 25-year agreement. If parking revenues are less than expected, the city can make up the difference by collecting payments from surrounding properties in the Mill District, adjusting parking rates, or a combination of the two. If revenues are more than expected, the city will receive the benefit.

The garage is designed to relieve existing and future parking pressures on Biddeford’s downtown as mill redevelopment continues, and is another signal of the city’s continued resurgence, city officials said.

The project has had its detractors, but city officials forged ahead.

It is a delicate operation to guide a heavy concrete slab, hung from a crane, into just the right spot on the top of Biddeford’s new parking garage on Lincoln Street, as these workers from PC Construction demonstrated on Friday morning. The construction project is expected to be finished by July 1. Tammy Wells Photo

Hourly rates at the garage for years 1-3 will be $2 an hour and permits will be sold at the rate for surface parking lots ($55 for a daytime permit and $70 for a 24/7 permit), according to information on the city’s web site.


“It was amazing to see how quickly this came together,” said Casavant, who said he first noticed a construction photo posted on social media a couple of months ago. He was a little skeptical, so drove down to see for himself, he said. “This is really an awesome day for Biddeford.”

The mayor touched on the dissent, noting that 10 years ago, the notion of a parking garage in Biddeford was a hard sell.

City Manager James Bennett said he will tell the council that he plans to turn the parking lots over to the company — which will manage them as well as the parking garage, on July 1. He said the construction project is currently on time, and on budget — and may result in a return of some money to Biddeford, though right now he said he doesn’t know how much.

As well as the garage, the project includes an expansion of the city’s RiverWalk.

City officials have said construction of the garage is expected to provide an additional $16.4 million in property taxes in the first 10 years of operation and a net benefit of $39.7 million over the 25-year contract.

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