Matt Dubois (Chinburg Regional Property Manager), Alan Casavant (Biddeford Mayor), Cameron DeWitt (Chinburg Assistant Project Manager), Brian Phinney (Biddeford COO), Rick Laverriere (Former Biddeford City Councilor), and John Bubier (Former Biddeford City Manager) pose at the the Lincoln Mill in Biddeford which is undergoing renovation. Estelle Margarones photo

BIDDEFORD — An iconic building in downtown Biddeford, the former Lincoln Mill is enjoying a new chapter as a residence and soon-to-be mixed-use space. The property is being redeveloped by Tim Harrington and Eric Chinburg. Chinburg Properties is a New Hampshire company that has renovated historic mill buildings throughout New England.

Entering the “phase two” construction zone at The Lincoln, one is greeted by the sounds of electric saws humming and the sights of steel framing and rolls of pink insulation, all reminders that these are still hard hat areas undergoing meticulous renovation.

Altogether, there will be 240,000 square feet of finished space over five floors. The building will include 147 loft apartments, businesses, and an adjacent hotel at the northernmost end. The Lincoln Hotel will feature 33 rooms including a penthouse suite. Last week, some of those who played key roles in getting the revitalization underway took an informal tour.

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said, “I am just in awe of not only the scale of development, but the attention to detail.  Having been underutilized or empty for so many years, it is wonderful to see this building come to life. To see it come back to life in a central position in the city is an important barometer of where Biddeford is.”

Former Biddeford City Manager John Bubier heads through a tunnel on the lower level of the Lincoln Mill in Biddeford.

The sheer scale of this project is impressive and it’s been years in the making. The expansion in Biddeford is thanks, in part, to the redevelopment of recent years following the closure of the Maine Energy Recovery Company waste to energy incinerator in Biddeford in 2012.

People are already flocking to the Lincoln Lofts in droves. Eighty-one apartments offered in the first phase of the renovation were scooped up in just three weeks. Of those residents currently calling the Lincoln Lofts home, two-thirds are under 30 years old and 80 percent are under 40. They’ve also got newly retired folks and those empty nesters who are taking advantage of a hot housing market. Approximately 25 percent of the residents are out-of-staters and the balance are moving from elsewhere in the Biddeford, Saco, and Greater Portland areas.

It’s easy to see the appeal of Lincoln Lofts. Daylight streams in through impossibly high windows, exposed brick exudes charm, and amenities such as a fenced-in dog area, bike storage room, and common areas all cater to the lifestyle of today’s renters.

Inside the Lincoln, you’ll find wide hallways, pipe handrails, preserved historic staircases, and enormous salvaged machine parts original to the building’s former incarnation as a working mill. In the coming months, a roof deck will feature a pool, bar, and lounging areas in addition to sweeping views of the city. Additionally, the important history of the mill, the exquisite architecture, and a terrific walkability score are all part of the attraction.

Former City Manager John Bubier, who retired in 2015, worked tirelessly to get the mill sold and redeveloped during his tenure in Biddeford. He believed that the Lincoln Mill had “huge, huge, huge potential if you could look past the empty space.” That potential is certainly being realized now. Bubier observed, “Biddeford was, in the past, a city of note. There was a vibrant community of retail and manufacturing. It went through rough patches, but it’s come back to even higher heights.”

The Lincoln is steps away from the City Theatre, boutiques, specialty stores, and numerous dining options. Now, with the renovation of mill and downtown buildings in Biddeford/Saco, the population density is attracting more businesses to the area.

The transformation of the Lincoln includes commercial ventures. Currently under construction, the 12,150-square-foot lower level will become home to Impact Fitness and the Batson River Brewing Social Club, who are both moving operations to this location. Impact Fitness will showcase group fitness areas as well as yoga and spin studios and Batson River Brewing will feature a restaurant and brewing operations.

At one time, enormous water-powered machinery would have necessitated an exceptionally high ceiling on this level. Today, that cavernous space is a great fit for Batson River Brewing’s 14-foot tanks. Once complete, the restaurant will boast what is sure to be an in-demand private dining room offering patrons an authentic mill experience.

Of the renovation, former City Councilor Rick Laverriere remarked, “It’s been a long time coming and it’s been worth the wait.” The fascinating mill building played an important part in Biddeford’s past and now, with the redevelopment, The Lincoln is sure to play a key role in Biddeford’s future. In days long gone, mills brought industry and interest in the area. It is not so surprising, then, that these days, the mill buildings are doing the same.

The remaining Lincoln Lofts will be complete the first week of January and will be prelisted at the beginning of October. It’s anticipated that the hotel will be finished in the spring and the remainder of the complex will be complete by summer.

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