The historic Marble Block building in downtown Biddeford has a new owner and a new future: Bryan Holden, the chief development officer of Luke’s Lobster, purchased the building for $400,000 in July.

Previously, the three-story, 20,000-square-foot building was under the ownership of the Marble Block Redevelopment Corp., which was formed to renovate the building on behalf of Engine, a nonprofit arts organization that bought the building from R.H. Reny Inc. – the owner of Renys department stores – for $1 in 2011.

For years, Engine sought to transform the historic building into a hub for art and creativity for the local community. However, the remodeling project became increasingly difficult for the small organization, and Engine’s leadership put the building on the market in the hopes of using the proceeds to stay afloat and invest in other programming in the future.

“The infrastructure of the building (and) the status of where it is at is a very large capital project that requires a certain financing and work that’s really beyond the scope and ability of Engine as an organization to focus on,” said Jess Muise, executive director of Engine. “I think that one thing that we don’t always think of is that a gift of a building like that is not a reason to build. There are other organizations that find selling such a gift can really help an organization focus on its programs, and that’s what we’re using the proceeds of the sale to do, in addition to being able to get through a really uncertain and tough time.”

According to Tammy Ackerman, Engine’s founding director and the president of the Marble Block Redevelopment Corp., a number of potential buyers made offers on the building, allowing Engine to select a buyer whose vision aligned with the organization’s.

“We had the interest right off the bat … we knew that we could be kind of picky as to who we were looking for,” Ackerman said.

Although the sale prevents Engine from seeing through its original vision for the Marble Block, Muise hopes that Engine will continue to be involved with the building and she is confident that Holden will use the space for the benefit of the local community.

“I’m so excited to see what (Holden) comes up with,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity, and he has an interest in supporting the continued growth and development of Biddeford, which is our shared interest. We do that through the arts, and there are a lot of ways to do that with that property.”

Muise said the door isn’t closed on Engine’s ability to help shape the property’s future.

“(That) is part of why I think we feel like we found such a great buyer: someone who’s willing to make the investment that’s needed to move that property forward and is willing to work closely with us as a community partner,” she said.

Holden did not respond to a request to discuss potential uses for the building. Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant is optimistic that no matter what Holden decides, the Marble Block can fill many of the city’s needs.

“With the mills beginning to fill up with permanent residents, (such as) the Lincoln Mill, Riverdam and so forth, there’s going to be an increasing need for goods and services within walking distance,” Casavant said. “And so we are looking for things like drugstores, shoe shops, clothing stores or whatever, because people who live in the mills are not going to be driving, they’re just going to walk there. We think there’s going to be a new vibrancy in terms of demand within that downtown itself.”

Ackerman hopes the building can be a center for the arts as was initially envisioned by Engine.

“I would hope to see it become an art anchor in the in the downtown, (but) I don’t know if that’s viable,” she said. “That is totally a question that (Holden) is going have to answer, but I do hope that he does follow through on this philanthropic idea.

“Regardless of whether Engine had been able to do it or not … it’s really positive that someone who has the capacity to renovate that building will do it,” Ackerman added. “It’s probably, I think, one of the most notable buildings on Main Street (and the) most unique buildings on Main Street, and it’s going to be great to see it – no matter which direction it goes – put back into use and not torn down.”


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