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April 8, 2014 at 12:00 am

A closer look at the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford

Anyone who spends time with Doug Sanford, Owner, and Scott Joslin, COO, of the Pepperell Mill Campus can’t help but share their enthusiasm for the project they have undertaken in Biddeford.  It’s infectious – their energy and passion are evident in what they do.  Doug and Scott and their team are truly invested in the community, a commitment to revitalizing the City’s downtown, and making this project a success. 

We’ve tried to encapsulate their story along with a bit of the Mill’s history and an overview of the revitalization to date, but nothing compares with taking a tour and seeing – in person – the incredible residential units they’ve completed and the office and retail space they have renovated.  Developers don’t take on projects like this just for the money or the prestige – it’s something more personal – drive, dedication and a connection to the property that truly brings adaptive reuse projects like this together.

The Mill’s History and Purpose: The Biddeford Mills were originally developed as textile mills, with construction commencing in the 1840s. The invention of automatic or machine operated looms created the opportunity for the mass production of woven cloth. The mills were developed at the falls of the Saco River, because of the critical resource of water power. The mills expanded and thrived well into the mid-20th century. The unique story of the Biddeford mill was that instead of closing, when the means of woven textiles turned to the southern states (water power was no longer needed as electricity took its place), the mill transitioned into the making of non-woven products (Vellux material products, similar to polar fleece).

The current owner’s story: The developers purchased a portion of the complex in 2004. In 2009 the remaining portion of the complex came up for sale when the mill ceased operations, and the owner closed on that section in 2010, bringing the total area of owned interior space to 1.1 million square feet in 16 buildings on approximately 16 acres.  While the owners didn’t have a concrete plan for the property during the acquisition process, they knew they wanted to redevelop the space into a high-quality mixed use complex.

Redevelopment completed to date:  Approximately 330,000 sf has been built out and leased to commercial users. Eighty-one market rate apartments have been completed and rented out.  There is a waiting list for vacant units. The rest of the renovated space is built out into mixed uses: offices, restaurant, artist studios, a brewery, an organic dye operation, a fitness center, and a pie crust company………..to name a few.  There are over 100 commercial tenants, including Spurwink Services, Support Solutions, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, The Department of Corrections and Nokia. 

Their five year plan consists of the following projects, many of which are underway today:

  • A 50 room boutique industrial style hotel and accompanying restaurant
  • A 150 seat quality restaurant
  • An affiliation with a nearby college/university to provide space for their curriculum expansion
  • A workforce housing project or senior housing project utilizing historic tax credits and the state low income housing tax credit program
  • A public / private partnership to develop and build a public parking garage
  • A planned Biddeford Mills Museum, to tell the story of the region’s textile mill history

What makes this project unique?  Location, location, location. This mill redevelopment is not located in the upper and interior areas of the state – it’s on the coast of Maine, with 3000 feet of frontage on the Saco River. The Saco River is a navigable river located 4 miles from the open ocean. The mill is 15 minutes by car south of Portland, 50 minutes by car to Portsmouth, and under 2 hours to downtown Boston. The Amtrak passenger train stops 500 feet from the mill’s North Dam entrance, which is located 2 miles from two Interstate 95 exits.

This project was a “diamond in the rough” just two years ago. Because of the perseverance of the Pepperrell Campus team, and their drive to realize their vision for the property, it is now on its way to being a polished diamond. 

For more information about the property, visit the website at http://www.pepperellmillcampus.com/.

Categories: Maine Real Estate Insider