Biddeford’s brand new 644-space parking garage was opened with a snip of the scissors on Tuesday morning, marking another big step in the downtown and mill district revitalization. Lots of folks were on hand for the event, including current and former city councilors, planning board members, the mayor, the builder and representatives of all the companies involved in the public-private partnership. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — When Alan Casavant spoke from the ground floor of Biddeford’s new parking garage on Tuesday, July 13, he talked about vision.

He also talked about the recent past too — going back 10 years, when he was first elected mayor of this old mill city, built on the banks of the Saco River many years ago.

“Ten years ago, this was an incinerator,” said Casavant, recalling the days when Maine Energy Recovery Company burned garbage on the site, turning it into energy.

But those days are over, as the city’s textile mills, some idle for decades, are being transformed into living spaces and working spaces at a rapid pace.

Biddeford’s new 644-space parking garage opened Tuesday morning, another signal of the city’s resurgence, local officials say. Tammy Wells Photo

Part of the transformation includes the new five-level, 644-space parking garage, officially opened Tuesday morning — a milestone in the city’s ongoing revitalization.

Ground was broken on the garage in August 2020 after the City Council a year before had voted to enter into an agreement with Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital to develop and manage a new parking garage and surface lots and continue the RiverWalk project. TFIC joined Amber for execution of the development projects. PC Construction was the general contractor for the job; the project manager was Mark Donovan, who lives in Biddeford and said he was proud to have been a part of the project “in the city where I live and that I love.”

The garage is designed to support parking needs for mill district development, including a future mixed-use project for the city-owned property on both sides of the garage as well as the Lincoln Mill and Riverdam Mill redevelopment projects already underway. It is also expected to relieve existing parking issues in Biddeford’s downtown.

Project partners in the $22 million project include Biddeford RiverWalk Community 1, LLC — the name for Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital and James W. Sewall Company — Amber Infrastructure Group, PC Construction, and the city. The garage is operated by Premium Parking, which is also managing the city’s municipal lots.

The development agreement with its project partners allowed construction without the use of residential property tax dollars and with no impact on Biddeford’s tax rate. Instead, the city will contribute annual payments from Tax Increment Financing revenues, which do not come from residential property taxpayers, as well as fees collected from the operation of the parking garage and downtown lots.

The opening of the garage comes as new projects in the Downtown Mill District continue to reach milestones, bringing new residents and businesses into the area, city officials said.

Residents recently began moving into their units in the Riverdam Mill at the end of Pearl Street, which, when all phases are complete, will sport 71 apartments and four commercial spaces, according to Biddeford Communications Coordinator Danica Lamontagne. As well, the first residents of The Lincoln will move into their new units Aug. 1. When complete, the Lincoln Street property will feature 148 luxury loft rentals, a 33-room boutique hotel, a restaurant, fitness facility, a conference and event center and a rooftop pool and bar.

As well, the city has entered into an agreement with BE Fitler, LLC for a mixed-use development on city-owned property on both sides of the parking garage. Lamontagne said the design for the site is intended to incorporate a mixture of residential, retail, office, hospitality, education, and service uses.

A $1.2 million grant awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration in April will help with construction of roadway, sidewalk, and utility upgrades on Pearl Street — a move city officials say will support further economic revitalization of the area and improve access to the parking garage.

“The opening of the garage is a developmental symbol for the rejuvenation of our downtown and the emergence of the Biddeford renaissance,” said Casavant.

He recalled the early days, when the vision eluded many and there was opposition, but the city forged ahead, and the City Council made decisions that did not always sit easy with constituents.

Now, he said, things are different, and the vision is clearer. People come up to him and say, “I get it.”

Biddeford’s renaissance is happening, Casavant concluded, because the city staff, City Council and Planning Board all believe in the city.

“It’s that simple,” he said. “We believe in Biddeford, and we believe in the people in Biddeford.”

Comments are not available on this story.