BIDDEFORD – A “no brainer” came before the Biddeford Planning Board Sept. 6. At least that’s what Julian Schlaver, Ward 5 city counselor and member of the downtown development commission said about the final site plan application submitted by Steve Liautaud (or Freddy LLC), the property owner of 64 Alfred St. Liautaud wants to turn his lot at the corner of Alfred and Jefferson streets into a community gathering space. Under his plan, which was approved unanimously by the board, a patchy swath of grass will be transformed into a pocket park boasting food trucks, picnic tables, and public gardens.

Schlaver wasn’t the only member of the public that stood before the board to speak in favor of the project on Wednesday. Holly Culloton, director of Biddeford Community Gardens, made clear that “the Biddeford Community Gardens supports this plan, which includes food trucks, outdoor gathering, eating, and event space, and a beautification component that comes with it. We are very interested in collaborating with the others involved in this,” she said.

Youthful Maine is one of those collaborators. They plan to start a biweekly, mobile, free food pantry there to provide food to community members on evenings and weekends. Youthful Maine also proposed to use the edge of the lot twice per month to offer fresh produce and dry goods from Good Shepherd Food Bank. This would be a much smaller distribution site than the one they have currently at Rotary Park. Another distinction is that it would cater to walk-ups, rather than passing out prebagged food.

“There’s lots of potential here for being creative and providing food at the same time” said Culloton. She even suggested that some of the Community Garden’s beds be planted with fresh produce, like cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, and green beans, that could be picked by the public at any time.

At the project’s heart is the desire to bring people together from different walks of life in Biddeford. “Communities that are surviving during these difficult climate times are resilient communities where people know each other,” said Anne Thompson from Ward 1. “We have less and less of a space to do that.”

To that end, Steve Liautaud was firm about his intention – despite the possibility of vagrancy – to leave the site open, without a fence.

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