City officials and partners held a ribbon cutting on Pearl Street on Thursday, celebrating a major road reconstruction 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 parking garage and surrounding developments.
The project, completed by Shaw Brothers Construction, reconstructed approximately 900 linear feet of Pearl Street, from its intersection with Lincoln Street to the Saco River and Biddeford Riverwalk, and included the addition of traffic calming bump outs, wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalk, storm drainage, underground conduit for electric, telecommunications and internet lines, and upgrades to approximately 465 linear feet of sewer lines. The design of the reconstructed road, inspired by a Dutch “woonerf” or living street concept, will also allow for the street to be closed to create an open gathering space.
Mayor Alan Casavant thanked the Economic Development Administration and Senator Collins, Senator King and Congresswoman Pingree for their support of the transformational project.
“Pearl Street was once a road that led to a waste-to-energy plant that stunted the growth of our city. At that time, it was a place to stay far away from and a cause of embarrassment for those who remembered the days of a thriving downtown,” Casavant said. “With this project complete, we have a new vision for Pearl Street: a road that was designed with features specifically to make it easy for people to gather and celebrate together like we are today. Community members can proudly dine, shop, live, and make connections with their neighbors in the very place that they were once ashamed of.”
Ongoing development progress in the Pearl Street area sparked the need for improvements to the roadway and utilities.
The City’s 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 Street Riverfront District. 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.
“As I stand here surrounded by the magnificent Lincoln Hotel, the modern Riverdam apartments, the emerging Levee community across the tracks, and the poster behind me celebrating the project plans for the land alongside the parking garage, I am thrilled for the future of our downtown and mill district,” Casavant said.