Long struggling textile mill town, Biddeford (pop. 21,000), had come to be defined by an industrial trash incinerator in the center of town. But the facility represented 80 jobs and was a major taxpayer.
Through Community Heart & Soul, residents set change in motion by showing city leaders that there was strong support for tearing the incinerator down. The city purchased the plant, tore it down, and that sparked revitalization.
From Trash Town to Leading the Way
After the demolition of the incinerator, the Community Heart & Soul project, Heart of Biddeford, focused on creating a downtown development plan. Instead of taking the typical approach to gathering public input, Heart of Biddeford, set out to hear from residents in a variety of ways including:
• Gathering stories from residents, which highlighted the history and uniqueness of the city;
• Engaging high school students in recording stories from family members, many of whom worked in the mills, which brought the city’s history to life and instilled pride.
• Creating “HeartSpots” where residents could phone in stories and memories related to specific downtown sites.
Since Completion of Community Heart & Soul
– $90 million in approved projects in the pipeline
– Vacancy on Main Street has dropped dramatically
– Business and industrial parks are nearly full
– Commercial real estate values have seen a 60% increase in value
– Residential values are up by 12%