Biddeford city officials and development partners broke ground on Sept. 15 on the Pearl Street reconstruction project. A federal grant will fund $1.2 million, or half the project, which is part of the city’s ongoing effort to renovate Biddeford’s downtown and mill district. Courtesy photoBIDDEFORD — City officials in Biddeford and partners broke ground on the Pearl Street Reconstruction Project on Sept. 15, a project made possible thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) under its Public Works program.

This EDA investment supports the economic revitalization of Biddeford’s Downtown Mill District by providing improved access to the city’s new parking garage and surrounding buildings, according to a city news release.

The project, to be completed by Shaw Brothers Construction, will reconstruct approximately 900 linear feet of Pearl Street, from its intersection with Lincoln Street to the Saco River and Biddeford Riverwalk, and will include traffic calming bump outs, parallel parking space, pedestrian-friendly sidewalk, storm drainage, underground conduit for electric, telecommunications and internet lines, and upgrading of approximately 465 linear feet of sewer lines, the release states. The design of the reconstructed road will also allow for the street to be closed to create an open gathering space.

The grant funding of $1,156,015 covers 50 percent of the total project cost. Per the funding plan approved by the City Council, the majority of the matching funds for the EDA grant will be sourced from TIF funding, with the remaining balance from paving and CSO funds.

Mayor Alan Casavant thanked the Economic Development Administration and Senator Susan Collins, Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for their support of the project.

“Ten years ago, who would have imagined that we would be standing here, surrounded by incredible development projects and economic activity? At that time, Pearl Street led to a waste to energy plant and was symbolically a road to nowhere,” Casavant said. “I look forward to Pearl Street’s continuing transformation into the gateway of an exciting and vibrant part of our downtown and mill district: a place to shop, dine, and live!”

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The ongoing development progress in the Pearl Street area has sparked the need for improvements to the roadway and utilities, according to the release. Once completed, the grant project will promote further economic growth and development in the area and create jobs throughout the region.

The City’s new 640-space parking garage, located off of Pearl Street, opened for operation in July 2021. The City’s Joint Development Agreement with its project partners allows the construction of the garage to be completed without the use of residential property tax dollars and with no impact on Biddeford’s tax rate. The project agreement also includes the financial support for a new section of the Biddeford Riverwalk.

The City of Biddeford has entered into a Master Plan Agreement with Fathom Companies for the development of the city-owned property on both sides of the parking garage. The mixed-use development of five new buildings, along with the parking structure and RiverWalk, will create an economically vibrant, urban-style destination set to be known as the Pearl Point Riverfront District, the release states

. Once complete, this project will create as many as 645 new jobs in downtown Biddeford, adding a 5% increase to the City’s job base.

“We are thrilled and honored that the EDA has elected to support the vision for the Pearl Street Riverfront District,” Jim Brady and Brian Eng, the development team behind Fathom Companies, said. “These funds will catalyze our collective effort to create Maine’s most walkable, transit-oriented 24-hour complete neighborhood. Residents and visitors to Downtown Biddeford will be able to live, work and play in the vibrant, thoughtfully designed Pearl Street Riverfront District thanks to the EDA’s support.”

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. More information on EDA’s grant process and investment process can be found at www.eda.gov.