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April 25, 2018

Saco Island project developer unveils plan

Courtesy / Saulnier Development
Courtesy / Saulnier Development
The concept plan for a Saco Island development.

SACO — A key waterfront parcel may be developed into a mixed-use residential and commercial center, more than a decade after initial plans were halted by the recession.

Saulnier Development is proposing a $40 million project on 5.8 acres that includes a 50-room hotel, 92 condominiums, 10,000 square feet of retail space, marina and boat slips and public trails. The site is on Saco Island, which is in the Saco River, bisected by Main Street.

Plans for The Waters go before town and state boards beginning next week, and the developer hopes to start construction in the fall, for a summer 2020 completion. J&B Partners LLC bought the site for $1.5 million from Saco Island East LLC last summer.

Saulnier told Mainebiz in September that he was originally approached about the project in 2016. According to LoopNet, the property was originally permitted for a 30-unit residential condominium development, a 2,050-square-foot marina clubhouse and a 69-slip marina. That project was drawn up in 2006 but was stopped by the recession, said Saulnier.

Developers said in a news release that the project will make available to the general public water views and direct access to the Saco River that the vast majority of Biddeford and Saco residents, for generations, have never enjoyed.

The plan went before a public meeting Tuesday night, and is scheduled to go to the Saco River Corridor Commission Wednesday [May 2], the Maine Department of Environmental Protection May 3 and the Saco Planning Board May 15. Building permit applications would be made Sept. 2.

The public got to see the plans at a public informational meeting Tuesday night.

The company is partnering with developer Jim Brady, developer of Portland's Press Hotel, on the hotel. Brady is also redeveloping the former district courthouse in downtown Biddeford.

"I know Saco is very eager to see this project get started, and so am I," Saulnier said in the news release. "There's been an explosion of redevelopment in downtown Biddeford-Saco, but this piece will link everything together. These two cities have officially moved forward into a completely new and positive economic era, and there's no going back."

Craig Pendleton, executive director the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the defining attribute of the project is its heavy emphasis on the Saco River, and the public's access to it.

"This project is beautifully and perfectly named," Pendleton said. "Look at the renderings; they're all about the river. That's so smart. What has previously been a desolate no-man's-land will now open up sweeping vistas of the Saco River.

"The economic rebound that these two cities have been making since 2012 has wisely used the river's natural draw to encourage economic revitalization. This development continues that in spades, and let me tell you, when this project is finished these two cities will never be the same. What a gem."

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