If you’re searching for a new home near Greater Portland and you ignore Biddeford, you do so at your own peril. Why? Because the once-maligned sea-side town is an absolute bargain compared to some of its super-hyped neighbors. And it’s an absolutely amazing place to live that the average buyer can still reasonably afford.
Now mind you, I’ll admit I’m biased. I bought my first home in Biddeford and I’m happily married to a born-and-raised Biddefordian. (I want credit for coining that term, by the way.). But my bias is mostly based in factual information, and those facts are that while Biddeford’s name was kicked around belittled for years (more on that later), it’s back on its feet and it’s not gonna take it anymore! (Nor should it.)
Biddeford enjoys having the stunning, historic and ecologically-important Saco River run smack-dab through the heart of its downtown. That’s no mistake; Biddeford’s mills are what it put it on the map, literally, and those mills utilized the massive power of the Saco to run its textile mills. Those mills brought money to the area, and French-Canadian moved to the area in droves in the early part of the 20th century. From the mid-1800s through the early ‘80s, the mills cranked out product, and Biddeford was a model of middle-class living. But when the mills closed due to foreign competition, Biddeford and its bustling downtown hit hard times. The digital revolution hadn’t yet happened, the area lacked good jobs, and the housing stock suffered from lack of maintenance. And during this dip in Biddeford’s fortunes, it somehow become something of a punch-line when compared with its more flashy neighbors like Kennebunkport and Cape Elizabeth. Even the mention of the city’s name would bring derision in common conversation, which is an odd way to respond to a city with such a rich history.
But then recently, a funny thing happened to Biddeford. People began to look past the stigma and noticed that a stunning, powerful and gorgeous river ran smack-dab through the middle of an adorable downtown with historic brick buildings and this town offered access to everything you could possibly want. Here is a town in which you can stand on the sidewalk and look straight down artfully crafted stone walls into the river. And those people said, “Why would I NOT live here?” And suddenly, the previously-shuttered mills began to be rejuvenated, their worn hardwood floors where generations of hard-working men and women had stood for generations were sanded and re-coated, their bricks re-pointed, their gorgeous facades freshened, and those massive mills began to be inhabited by artists, business offices, yoga studios, retail stores and apartments. Boards were removed from retail shop windows on Main Street, and funky eateries like The Palace Diner, comfy coffee shops like Elements Coffee and fun boutiques like Suger moved in. Biddeford’s resurgence was underway.
Any you know what’s even cooler? That resurgence is still underway. And it shows NO signs of slowing down. The school system is outstanding and Biddeford LOVES and wildly supports its hometown sports teams, the Tigers. There are numerous shopping opportunities like at The Shops At Biddeford Crossing, it is unbelievably walkable/bikeable and the taxes are incredibly reasonable. Recreational opportunities you say? Sit down, the list is long. From kayaking, boating, beach-going and hiking to skiing, camping, and golfing, it’s all available here. The fun and historic Old Orchard Beach is a short drive away if you’re seeking a classic boardwalk feel. Oh, you’re an aircraft enthusiast? You’ll be happy to know that Biddeford even has a municipal airport. Biddeford has a solid business community and is very welcoming to new businesses. Its architecture is diverse and the city is home to some of the most strikingly beautiful churches in the state.
But the best news of all is that Biddeford is still largely undiscovered. For now. That silly stigma still hangs in the air for some people, and that’s good news for you if you’re looking for a new home, because it means there is still a city near Greater Portland where you can get a lot for your money. But that stigma will fade eventually. By the time it does, however, it could be too late.
If you’re looking to buy, I’d love to be your Realtor. And if you’d like to check out Biddeford, I’d love to be your guide. It may or may not be the perfect place for you, but dismissing it without considering it could be a huge missed opportunity. And Biddeford won’t be ignored any longer.
Mike Faulkingham is a Realtor and writer who lives in South Portland, Maine.