Cracked walls and floors, ‘settling’ among problems forcing demolition, replacement of Biddeford Kohl’s

Posted Jan. 10, 2014, at 5:58 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — The Kohl’s department store in the Biddeford Gateway Plaza will be demolished in February and a smaller store will be rebuilt because the existing building “settled” into the ground.

Biddeford Code Enforcement Officer Roby Fecteau said Friday that city officials received information in 2006 and 2007 that “there was some settling going on in the ceiling tiles and that the walls and floors were cracking.”

The city notified Kohl’s and had the building evaluated by an engineer. Kohl’s then had three engineers examine the store, and they said the building was safe, but could potentially be in trouble.

With no pressure from the city to do so, according to Fecteau, Kohl’s decided to demolish the store next month and rebuild a smaller store closer to Home Depot.

In an email Friday to the Bangor Daily News, Kohl’s spokeswoman Jen Johnson said Kohl’s would close its Biddeford store on Feb. 22 for demolition “to address long-term structural improvements and store updates,” and reopen in a new building in the fall of 2014.

Johnson did not respond to specific questions posed by the Bangor Daily News about the building’s “settling” or other structural problems.

The new store will be smaller than the existing building — 66,000 square feet versus the current 88,000 square feet, according to Fecteau — and is slated to be complete by the 2014 holiday shopping season.

The company secured final approval for the new building from the Biddeford Planning Board on Nov. 6.

The city never had any concerns about the safety of the existing store, Fecteau said, although Kohl’s is required to keep the roof snow-free.

Fecteau is not sure what caused the “settling,” but he said engineers at planning board meetings speculated that the wrong type of “structural fill” may have been used during construction.

Based in Wisconsin, Kohl’s is one of America’s largest department store chains with nearly 1,200 stores nationwide.

There are five Kohl’s department stores in Maine, with locations in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Biddeford and Westbrook.

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