The Pepperell Mill Campus in Biddeford is being sold to a pair of developers who say they hope to build on its conversion into apartments, offices and retail space.

The mill buildings are being sold by Doug Sanford, who bought some of the complex in 2004 and the rest in 2010 and converted some of the buildings into dozens of apartments and commercial spaces. City officials have touted the redevelopment of the mills as a key part of the downtown revitalization Biddeford has enjoyed in recent years.

Andrew Preston and Chris Rhoades, right, stand in a two-story room that used to be a bank at the Time & Temperature Building in Portland in this photo from August 2020. The developers have signed a contract to buy Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill Campus for an undisclosed price. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Buyers Chris Rhoades and Andrew Preston said the closing on the property, in the heart of downtown Biddeford alongside the Saco River, is set for mid-December.

Rhoades and Preston declined to disclose the sale price for the property, which is assessed at nearly $22.5 million by the city. Attempts to reach Sanford for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Rhoades said the property was never listed on the open market. He and Preston had become friendly with Sanford in the past few years and recently reached a deal to buy the mill property, he said.

The property is attractive because Biddeford is well-situated to take advantage of the growth in southern Maine, Rhoades said.

“We think the Biddeford market is a great market, just 20 minutes outside of Portland and an hour and change to Boston,” he said, and the city has one of the youngest populations in the region.

Rhoades and Preston were behind the conversion of hundreds of military housing units at the former Naval Air Station Brunswick, now called Brunswick Landing, to private housing. They also have purchased Portland’s iconic Time & Temperature Building with plans to convert it into a hotel and retail space.

They said the mill is in great shape – “It’s built like a tank,” Rhoades said – and carries “the authenticity of the craftmanship,” Preston said. Its original wood floors, high ceilings and exposed brick are attractive to both residential and commercial tenants, they added.

Sanford “has really created a vibrant live-work environment” at the former mill, Preston said, with a diverse set of both residential and commercial tenants.

Rhoades said he and Preston commissioned a market study and determined that the current rents, both residential and commercial, are about 20 to 25 percent below the market rates. He said they will probably raise rents as tenants move out but haven’t made a decision on across-the-board rent hikes.

The study confirms that the property is “a good relative value,” Rhoades said.

Ten of the 16 buildings they are buying have been renovated and are producing rental income, he said. The other six are a more speculative investment that the pair will consider for renovation and reuse down the road.

“We’ll figure out what to do with those at some point,” Rhoades said

Rhoades said he and Preston learned the value of investing in the properties they purchase through their experiences in converting the base housing in Brunswick and the investments planned for the Time & Temperature building.


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