Local Community Invited to Contribute to the Planning Process

BIDDEFORD—The Reny family, which owns and operates the Renys chain of stores across Maine, is preparing to gift its three-story building in Biddeford to the nonprofit arts organization Engine.

Located at 129 Main Street in the heart of downtown Biddeford, the historic 19,000-square-foot building was built around 1900 and features a former community theater on the third floor. Most recently, the building housed the Biddeford branch of Renys, but it has sat vacant since the store’s relocation to Saco in 2008. Founded by Biddeford native R.H. Reny in 1949, Renys has remained a family-run business that now operates 14 locations across Maine.

“When we approached the Reny family, they expressed a strong desire to leave a positive and lasting impact on downtown Biddeford,” said Engine’s executive director Tammy Ackerman. “As a community-based arts organization, Engine is in a perfect position to turn this building into a cultural hub on Main Street. We are simply overjoyed that the Reny family supports this vision.”

“The Renys story began in Biddeford, where dad was born and grew up,” said Bob Reny. “We were thrilled to have a successful store there for so many years and were saddened to outgrow it and move to our Saco store. We’ve always wanted the building to become something special for the Biddeford community, and now that time has come.”

Over the next two months, Engine will work with Caleb Johnson Architects and Thread, a local development firm committed to revitalizing downtown Biddeford, to undertake a feasibility study, examine the property, and explore the building’s potential and possible uses. Once the planning process is complete, Engine intends to take ownership of the building before January 2012.

“We believe that commerce follows culture,” said Stephen Abbott, Engine’s board president. “We are making this announcement today because we want this building to become a true community asset, and we hope investors, businesses, and local leaders will come forward with innovative ideas about how we can transform this incredibly generous donation into a vibrant creative center that will infuse Main Street with new energy, more opportunities, and greater economic activity.”

From October 5 to November 15, Engine will be collecting ideas and community feedback via an online form. In the next two weeks, Engine will also announce an open-invitation community planning evening during which community members will be able voice their ideas and discuss the potential of this project.

This crucial planning process is being funded as part of the $50,000 Creative Communities=Economic Development (CC=ED) grant awarded to Biddeford by the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The CC=ED grant was given to a partnership of Biddeford nonprofit organizations that includes Engine, City Theater, the University of New England, and the Heart of Biddeford.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Tammy Ackerman
Executive Director, Engine
207 229 3560