Work has begun on a long-awaited $50 million redevelopment of Biddeford’s Lincoln Mill that will include 148 luxury apartments and the city’s first downtown hotel.

The Lincoln, which was first announced five years ago, is the latest example of a major investment in the city’s revitalization following the closure of a notorious downtown trash incinerator in 2012. The project experienced significant delays as developers Tim Harrington and Eric Chinburg lined up financing that includes historic tax credits, but site work has begun and a formal groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Wednesday.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Harrington said. “Biddeford is an incredible place, and I couldn’t be happier about investing in this project.”

While some work on the brick building has started, the developers will kick off the project Wednesday with a ceremonial groundbreaking with city officials and an evening event that will showcase both project plans and food and beverages from Batson River Social Club, the restaurant that will open in The Lincoln.

The redevelopment of the former textile mill comes at a time of reinvention for the city’s sprawling mill district, which once employed generations of mill workers and is now home to a mix of apartments, retail spaces, breweries and light industrial businesses. Both city leaders and developers credit much of the new economic activity to the departure of the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator that had operated on Lincoln Street for more than two decades.

In 2012, the City Council voted to buy the riverfront property that housed MERC, making way for more than $100 million in new investment, city officials said. Maine Energy was a waste-to-energy incinerator that for years generated complaints about odor and led some to give Biddeford the nickname “Trashtown.”

The Lincoln Mill project is the latest major investment in the historic mills and the downtown area to follow the closure of MERC.

“It’s symbolic for the ‘Biddesance’ in terms of how the community is transforming itself,” said Mayor Alan Casavant, referencing the term he uses to describe the downtown revitalization.

Harrington, who lives in Biddeford Pool, said the closure of MERC and visionary work of Doug Sanford on the Pepperell Mill Campus paved the way for the Lincoln Mill project.

The Lincoln Mill, built in the 1850s, is about 224,000 square feet – or roughly 5 acres – and is located at the corner of Main and Lincoln streets, just across from City Hall. Its predominant location will allow more people to see the significant transformation of the mill district, much of which has happened in buildings not visible from the street, City Manager James Bennett said.

Redevelopment of the Lincoln Mill, which was built in 1850, will include market-rate apartments, a boutique hotel, a restaurant and a rooftop pool. 2014 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“It will be tough for the skeptics to argue the downtown hasn’t changed,” Bennett said.

Bennett, who says he is pleased to see the project move forward, called The Lincoln “pretty unique for the state.”

The Lincoln will include 148 luxury apartments and a boutique hotel with 33 guest suites and a rooftop pool and bar. The building will include common social and work spaces, as well as a 11,000-square-foot Quest Fitness gym.

Batson River Brewing and Distilling, which has a tasting room in Lower Village Kennebunk, will open the Batson River Social Club at The Lincoln.

Harrington – who has owned a shopping complex in Biddeford for 20 years and opened hotels in Kennebunkport – said he and Chinburg, his partner, will incorporate local art throughout the project. Each hotel suite will feature paintings from local artists, and a pop-up gallery in the lobby also will highlight local artists.

“Biddeford is home to so many artisans. This project will reflect that,” he said.

Harrington acknowledged there were significant delays because of financing and the complexity of the project but said he “can’t overstate how excited I am” to get see the project move into the next phase.

Harrington purchased the mill in early 2015 for $2.5 million and in 2016 received approval for the project from the Biddeford Planning Board. But city officials say the project was delayed by at least a year because of uncertainty about historic tax credits, which were targeted for elimination by Congress but later reinstated.

Because of those delays, the developers had to pay $30,000 in fines to the city for missing deadlines outlined in a joint development agreement Harrington and Chinburg had signed with the city. Despite those delays, Casavant said the developers always kept city officials in the loop, and he was confident the project would come to fruition.

The developers say the project is expected to create 150 permanent jobs. The apartments are scheduled to open by the end of 2020, and the hotel portion of the project is expected to be complete by May 2021.

Bennett, the city manager, expects the developers to pull permits for the project within days once final approvals from the fire marshal are in hand.

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