Biddeford’s Five Points Mall will become an entertainment complex

Several major tenants at Five Points Mall in Biddeford have moved or closed in recent years, including Planet Fitness, Big Lots and Smitty’s Cinema. Gregory Reck/Staff Photographer

A Kennebunk-based developer plans to transform a beleaguered Biddeford shopping center into an indoor entertainment and sports complex.

This is the second time Tim Harrington has unveiled a new vision for Five Points Mall, and this latest iteration is a sharp departure from the mixed-use residential and commercial development that was previously approved in 2021. The change comes as the fast-growing town in York County badly needs more housing, but officials say the new plans present a different opportunity: the chance to cement Biddeford as a year-round destination for families.

Harrington was busy in the former mill town. He redeveloped Lincoln Mill into a luxury hotel and plans a nearly 500-unit apartment building called 1 Diamond near downtown. But The strip mall at 420 Alfred Road, which Harrington has owned for two decades, is somewhat of a “poor stepchild.”

Now he said, “The time of Five Points has come.”

The 140,000-square-foot complex, called Play 5, is being touted as an entertainment destination for “thrill seekers of all ages,” according to a news release from Atlantic Holdings, Harrington’s real estate development company. The site will include a pickleball court and an indoor golf course, with other potential tenants including a bowling alley, arcade, laser tag and a ropes course. It is expected to open in the spring.

The Play 5 is modeled after Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, Massachusetts, although it is not related. Apex offers food, an arcade, bumper cars and go-karts, sports simulators, mini golf, a ropes course and more.

Harrington said he’s seen a strong demand for some type of indoor entertainment to keep families busy during Maine’s long winters. With the Play 5, all of this can happen under one roof.

Marty Grohman, Biddeford’s mayor-elect, said Harrington has a history of beautiful projects and expects Five Points to be the same.

“It’s going to be very nice for Biddeford,” Grohmann said. “You’re going to come out of that exit and it’s going to make an impression.”

The Five Points Shopping Center is located on the busy Alfred Road, between the motorway and the junction for which it is named. It was built in 1978 and purchased by Harrington in 2004, according to city records. It is valued at around $10.6 million.

Harrington revitalized the “neglected center” when he first bought it, but said it was now time for a makeover.

The plaza is currently anchored by a Goodwill store, but is also home to a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, H&R Block, Maine Cleaners, a nail salon and a workforce development nonprofit. Tropical Smoothie Cafe and 99 Restaurant are located across the parking lot. Several major tenants have moved or closed in recent years, including Planet Fitness, Big Lots and Smitty’s Cinema, among others.

“Retail is particularly challenging right now,” Harrington said, adding that he hopes the entertainment complex will breathe much-needed life into the space.

“It’s an amazing location, an amazing piece of property,” he said. “It’s time for a facelift and an injection of capital.”

Harrington said the current tenants can coexist with the future use of the site.

“I’m in the business of finding tenants and keeping them, not evicting them,” he said.

Play 5 is the latest in a series of moves that officials hope will help turn the once-troubled city into a destination.

Over the past decade, Biddeford has transformed from a crumbling mill town with empty streets and a bad reputation to Maine’s youngest city, full of nationally acclaimed restaurants and a burgeoning arts scene. Its resurgence is attracting people from all over, and the city is quickly becoming a desirable destination, especially for people who have been pushed out of Portland. But there aren’t enough houses or apartments to house even longtime residents, let alone newcomers. The city is desperate for housing.

Grohmann and others are trying to change that, and fast. Most days, he said, are spent “breaking traffic jams,” trying to clear any holdups for upcoming projects. And they are many. Grohman estimates that more than 1,300 new apartments and condos will be headed to the city in the next few years.

Harrington’s 1 Diamond project, with 490 marketable units, will be among the largest. Another development near Five Points Shopping Center will add about 250 units to the workforce. And down the road across from Target, developers are working on a 216-unit project.

The Five Points shopping center was expected to join the list of residential projects in the works.

In early 2021, Harrington approached the Biddeford Planning Board with plans for a mixed-use commercial and residential development. The original plan included the current retail tenants with about 130 market-rate apartments spanning six or seven stories above the center of the complex. Early plans also included 128 more garden-style apartments on a five-acre wooded lot adjacent to the shopping center.

Last month, Harrington reversed course and announced plans for the Play 5.

“This is a challenging time in the development world. Everything we talked about at 3.5% interest rates, you’re now looking at 8%,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for housing on the site.

“I’m a big supporter of Biddeford, so if there’s a way to make those five acres work as workforce housing, that’s amazing,” he said. “It should become housing. It was never an either/or proposition.”

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