BIDDEFORD, Maine — It was only a few years ago that WestPoint Homes management occupied the white-and-brick building on York Street. But when Biddeford’s last major textile manufacturer closed its doors in 2009, management, along with more than 100 workers, vacated the WestPoint property, consisting of 12 buildings and more than 1 million square feet.
Developer Doug Sanford has been struggling to fill the buildings, renamed the Pepperell Mill Campus, since he purchased the complex in 2010.
Recently, he has made some headway.
The mills’ former headquarters is now home to two new tenants. Construction of build-to-order offices for a third tenant is under way.
Sanford, believes the “synergy” from these tenants will attract others to the building.
“It’s all about making it affordable and attainable for the clients,” he said.
The first new tenant to move in was Spurwink Services.
Spurwink is a nonprofit that works with children and families in residential and out-patient settings in multiple locations.
It relocated its behavioral health division from Saco Island to the Biddeford building in August, Spurwink spokeswoman Amy Cohan said.
The agency made the move from mill space in Saco to Biddeford because of the opportunity for expansion in the new site and because of the possibility of working with and sharing resources with similar agencies, she said.
Last year, several dozen area nonprofit and social services agencies met to consider the possibility of locating together to share resources and save money.
No organizations would commit to the plan, so talks stymied.
However, Sanford said, it seems that some of these organizations are organically seeking each other out and locating near one another.
“I think others are following us,” Cohan said.
Following Spurwink, York County Community Action Corporation moved one of its offices into the building a few months ago.
Some services offered there include fuel assistance, the federal Women, Infants and Children Program, and infant weight and measurement, office manager Jenn Viger said.
Previously YCCAC, which has offices around York County, was at another location in Biddeford.
Once construction is complete, the Department of Corrections, the third tenant, will move into the building in April.
According to Maine’s Division of Leased Space Director William Leet, the DOC began looking for new space to merge existing offices in Biddeford, Saco and Springvale in 2009. Until the property at the Pepperell Mill Campus was found, Leet said, none of the other proposed sites met the needs of the department either because of cost, space limitations or other factors.
The new office space, which will house the Adult Community Corrections Probation Service and the Division of Juvenile Services, should work out well, Leet said. It will save the state more than $11,000 a year in reduced rent. Another convenience, he said, is that it is in close proximity to the Biddeford District Courthouse.
“The space was considered by far to be the best value for the state, providing the most cost-effective and efficient space for corrections operation needs,” Leet wrote in an email.
Cohan said it is also convenient for Spurwink to have the DOC’s juvenile division nearby.
Sanford said he thinks more and more organizations with shared interests and clients will be attracted to the building. In addition, he plans to add value to the site by adding shared amenities such as a kitchen, a conference room and others that individual tenants couldn’t afford on their own. These shared resources, along with affordable leases, will be a way to attract more tenants to his buildings.
New tenants in his buildings aren’t only good for him, Sanford said, they’re also good for the rest of the downtown.
New tenants bring their employees; 35 at Spurwink, seven at YCCAC and nearly 20 at the Department of Corrections. These employees, working near Biddeford’s Main Street, will add new business to the downtown as they eat and shop.
While one building may be filling up, Sanford still has much more space available and too few tenants. To give him and others interested in his property more options, Sanford plans to present a subdivision plan before the planning board next month. His plan calls for separating the buildings under individual deeds, allowing him to more easily sell off sections of the property.
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