Biddeford Historic Preservation Program
Biddeford to Conduct Architectural Survey of Historic Buildings Downtown
The Biddeford Historic Preservation Commission is about to embark on a project to document historic buildings in the downtown and surrounding areas of the city. This project is called an Architectural Survey, and will be conducted by Kleinfelder, Northeast, Inc., a consultant the City hired through a competitive RFP process.
Biddeford is fortunate to have a rich assortment of historic buildings, and this survey will record the wide range of buildings its history reflects, dating from the 1700s through the early 1970s. The project will begin on or around November 1, 2022 and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2023.
The Biddeford Architectural Survey is supported in part by a grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Throughout the fall, the consultant will be working in Biddeford’s downtown neighborhoods, photographing each building, structure or object (a statue, for example) and documenting its age, construction details, and architectural style. The Study Area map below indicates the geographic range of this survey. The Survey will create a record and narrative that will be used by the Historic Preservation Commission in its work to better protect historic resources in Biddeford.
“You will probably notice the project team walking through your neighborhood and taking photos over the next few months,” said Brad Favreau, staff liaison for the Historic Preservation Commission. “It’s important to remember that this survey will not affect property taxes or your privacy in any way.”
Documenting a community’s historic buildings is the first step in preservation of these buildings.
Historic preservation helps tell the story of a community’s past. It helps tell the story of a place, often in terms of how and why a community developed. It is a link between past and future generations. Preservation of historic buildings is important because old buildings are a reminder of the way in which people lived decades or centuries ago, and the ways in which buildings were constructed.
Properly preserved, old buildings also add economic value to a community.
“People love old buildings and are drawn to the architectural richness of a nicely preserved downtown,” Favreau said. “Old buildings are people-friendly because they are usually better scaled to the human experience. Small business owners prefer old buildings, because they are usually less expensive to rent, compared to newly constructed buildings which can be costly. Well-preserved buildings also attain higher property values than do neglected old buildings.”
For more information on the Architectural Survey, please contact Brad Favreau, Economic Development Coordinator, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 207-284-9115.
Overview of the Preservation Program
The City of Biddeford’s Historic Preservation Ordinance requires that, in most cases, a Certificate of Appropriateness must be issued prior to alterations to buildings and structures in the MSRD 1, MSRD2, and MSRD 3 Zones. Depending on the scale of activity, the application is reviewed by either the Historic Preservation Commission or its delegated authority Subcommittee.
Certificate of Appropriateness
To Apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness complete and return the application below to the Planning and Development Department at City Hall:
Before the advent of a national historic preservation movement in the mid-to-late 20th century, many historically significant buildings were lost to careless redevelopment. Nationally, historic preservation as a cause gained much momentum and support after the thoughtless demolition New York City’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963, replaced by an underground rail station with Madison Square Garden built above it. In Maine, similarly, the demolition of Union Station on St John Street in Portland about the same time produced great outcry when developers tore it down and replaced it with a nondescript strip shopping center and parking lot. Both cities lost great landmarks in the name of progress. Biddeford itself lost many Mill District buildings when the Maine Energy Recovery Company facility was built on Lincoln Street in the 1980s.
The current historic preservation ordinance, in place since 2013, helps ensure that significant buildings are not lost to insensitive alterations or development.
What Is the Historic Preservation Commission?
The Biddeford Historic Preservation Commission protects the historic and architectural heritage of our city and its historically significant areas, landmarks, and sites, while accepting compatible new construction as needed for the city to grow.
The Code of Ordinances of the City of Biddeford grants the Historic Preservation Commission the authority to review all construction projects in the three Main Street Revitalization District (MSRD) land use zones to ensure compliance with preservation practices. The HPC adheres to the standards set by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Standards of Rehabilitation while also taking into consideration the City’s Code of Ordinances.
The Commission is made up of seven members who are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, plus a staff person from the Planning and Development Department.
How It Works
The HPC guards the character of downtown neighborhoods by reviewing construction of new buildings, exterior alterations, and demolition of existing buildings in the three MSRD zones. This work ensures that all construction projects in these zones meet the requirements that maintain the historic context of the surroundings, including the architectural styles, qualities, and construction methods that give them significance. All exterior construction, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, or demolition projects that are visible at pedestrian height from any open space or street must receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC before Biddeford Code Enforcement will issue a building permit.
Why It Matters
Biddeford is home to dozens of historically significant buildings and structures, especially in the downtown. It is the duty of the HPC to protect and defend these structures, and to preserve the essential character of historic neighborhoods in such a way that enhances and improves the value of properties. Historic preservation can play a role in economic development of Biddeford by making it more desirable place to live and work, and by encouraging place-making and place-keeping that can help draw in new visitors to our city.
Where It Applies
The HPC considers projects taking place within the MSRD-1, MSRD-2, and MSRD-3 Land Use Zones shown on the map below. Click the image to view a larger map.
When We Meet
The Historic Preservation Commission meets on the second Wednesday of every month. An application for Certificate of Appropriateness must be submitted to the Planning and Development Department at City Hall two weeks before the meeting in order to be included on the agenda. Upcoming meetings are listed on the City calendar.