BIDDEFORD – The Biddeford Planning Board voted unanimously Sept. 6 to approve a preliminary change of use application to turn the Odd Fellows Hall at 25 Alfred St. into a 30-room boutique hotel. Jason Jirele of Woodhull Architects, who brought the proposal before the board, made a compelling case for the project as part of an ongoing effort in Biddeford to revitalize Main Street and the Historic District.

Floors two through four in 25 Alfred St. were last used by the Laconia lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. That was nearly 30 years ago. The ground floor, which has been used as a retail space in recent years, is also vacant.

Tyler Cao, a partner from Sullivan Capital – the Massachusetts-based real estate investment firm who owns the building – was enthusiastic about the project. “A hotel like this will fundamentally change some of the tourism into the city,” he said.

When planning board members expressed concern about the strain a 30-room hotel could place on local businesses, Cao had an answer ready. “I just came back from Milan, and I was talking to a really good friend of mine who is in the hotel business in Milan,” he shared, “and he said there is a new term for tourists going to Europe, they’re called ‘toilet tourists.’ They show up, they never stay, they never spend any money in the city, they show up to the restaurant next to the cathedral and they say ‘can I use your bathroom before I go in. That is because there is (sic) not enough hotels and there is not enough places for tourists to actually stay in these cities. We think our hotel and our proposition for what it will be not only will bring people into the surrounding locations, but that means they will stay and visit the local area.”

He estimated that during a two-night stay in the proposed hotel, a guest might frequent local businesses, including restaurants, four or even five times.

What if they want to eat in? Sullivan and Woodhull have got that covered – with a 65-seat restaurant and bar on the ground floor. Cao even hinted that a Michelin star chef is looking at the property.


“We aim to bring a certain level of Portland or Boston quality into this location because we think the location can support it,” Cao said. “We aim to create and cater a high-end experience that is appropriate for premium travelers as well as for locals to enjoy out maybe on a date night, maybe on an anniversary.”

Sullivan capital has requested a waiver from the Town of Biddeford to provide off-street parking for its guests. The city council meeting on Aug. 29 – which discussed the underutilization of the Pearl Street parking garage and how it hasn’t done enough to alleviate competition for spots on the street – doesn’t bode well for the impact of a new hotel on parking in the downtown area. While some planning board members were wary of how the project might impact spots normally used by tourists and employees of local businesses, nobody was unduly concerned on Wednesday.

“I looked at the plan in detail,” one member said, “I think it’s very well done.”

The proposal was to be discussed by the Historic Preservation Commission on Sept. 13.

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