In multi-part series, exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.
Please join with us in celebrating Mission Hill. A conversation with Guy Gagnon, Biddeford Housing.
MEREDA: Describe the building and project.
Guy Gagnon: Complete renovation and re-use of St. Andre’s Church campus encompassing an entire city block near the center of Biddeford. Former school has 35 senior apartments; former convent converted to 15 new senior apartments; rectory being converted to community center and a few affordable family apartments above; Church to be location for youth related activities, teen center, large gathering area and historic chapel.
MEREDA: What was the impetus for this project?
Guy Gagnon: The closure of St. Andres parish and the deterioration of its buildings was having negative impact on the neighborhood. Fit perfectly within Biddeford Housing Authority (BHA) / Southern Maine Affordable Housing’s (SMHA) mission to improve the quality and quantity of affordable housing.
MEREDA: That sounds like quite a process. How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?
Guy Gagnon: BHA had this project on its potential redevelopment list since 2010 when the last church service took place. Construction began in 2015 after acquisition in 2014.
MEREDA: Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.
Guy Gagnon: Piecing together the various funding sources needed to allow the units to remain affordable for seniors, most of whom are on fixed incomes. And now finding more funding to complete the re-use of the spectacular Church building itself.
MEREDA: Something unexpected you learned along the way was….
Guy Gagnon: Stories from current and past residents of the area who visited or had some connection with the church have been very interesting to hear.
MEREDA: Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable?
Guy Gagnon: Just the fact that we are saving an entire campus of some of the most historic buildings in Biddeford is a rare opportunity.