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Old 02-26-2008, 01:52 AM   #1
grittys457
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Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I heard this site was looked at for a new civic center a few years ago. I'll certainly take this, although I'm sure it would make my drive to work hell.

Big plans for Westbrook site

Stroudwater Place would be built on 61 acres near the Maine Turnpike at a cost of $300 million.



By ANN S. KIM Staff Writer

February 26, 2008



WESTBROOK ? An ambitious project that would put shops, offices, recreational areas and other amenities around public spaces would be built on a 61-acre parcel between Westbrook Arterial and Stroudwater Street under a plan presented to city officials Monday.



Preliminary plans for Stroudwater Place call for a combined 1.65 million square feet of floor space. Plans call for 1 million square feet for retail with a focus on mid- to higher-scale, 100,000 square feet for offices, 300,000 square feet for hospitality and food, and 250,000 square feet for sports and entertainment areas.



By comparison, the Maine Mall in South Portland has 1.2 million square feet of retail space.



The project is being proposed by the landowner, Jason Snyder, and Arthur Emil, a New York developer who owned Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center.



They have hired Thompson Design Group, a Boston firm whose projects have included Fanueil Hall in Boston, Union Station in Washington, D.C., Harborplace in Baltimore and Navy Pier in Chicago.



"I had a dream many years back that some day this property would be developed because it was located by the Maine Turnpike and the Westbrook Arterial," said Snyder, a son of the late Arthur Snyder, an influential developer who was an early renovator of downtown Portland properties.



The project, which would be built in phases over eight to 10 years, is expected to create about 1,200 construction jobs and 4,000 or more permanent jobs. Emil estimated the total cost to be $300 million -- all private money.



The scale of the plan has the attention of state officials.



Economic Development Commissioner John Richardson praised the plan as a "great project," especially at a time when Maine faces the loss of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.



"When this is ramping up, it's ramping up at the right time," Richardson said.



Supporters of Stroudwater Place are envisioning a place that is much more than a shopping mall. They are aiming to create a regional destination with public spaces conducive to walking, gathering, people-watching -- not just shopping.



"All in all, this is about creating a local spirit," Jane Thompson, a principal in the design firm, said during a presentation to the City Council's Committee of the Whole.



The plans are in the very early stages, but at this point call for three public spaces. Ideas include areas for a farmers market, outdoor entertainment, picnicking, and a common where commercial activity is both outdoors and indoors.



Other elements of the plan include a hotel, an indoor skating rink, a cinema and parking for 6,500 vehicles.



Councilor Ed Symbol was enthusiastic about the project's private investment and the regional appeal it would have. "I think communities are trying to attract projects like this. Fortunately, Jason lives in the community and this fell in our lap," he said.



To move forward, the project needs a contract zone from the city. The property, which is next to Woodlawn Cemetery, is now zoned for professional office space.



The Planning Board will make a recommendation to the City Council after holding a public hearing. The City Council will decide after holding its own public hearing.



The first Planning Board workshop is tentatively scheduled for April 1. Issues that the Planning Board will consider will include traffic, the demand for such a project, and whether it is consistent with the city's vision for itself.



Councilor Drew Gattine said he wants to know about the economic feasibility of such a project, and to determine whether there's community support.



"I think people have to understand how big this is," he said.
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Old 02-26-2008, 12:07 PM   #2
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Gigantic seems like an understatement. This would be a huge project anywhere.

Quote:
....a Boston firm whose projects have included Fanueil Hall in Boston, Union Station in Washington, D.C., Harborplace in Baltimore and Navy Pier in Chicago.
Most would agree that those 4 places listed are among the finest public retail/enterinamnent spaces in the counry. I've been to two of the four so far.

Isn't this by where they wanted to build a super wal-mart? I am thinking of the right area, this is currently a big field and I believe there is some livestock there now. I wasn't alive to see it, but I've heard that the Maine Maill was once farmland too.


Quote:
Councilor Drew Gattine said he wants to know about the economic feasibility of such a project, and to determine whether there's community support.
Community support? I have a hard time believing there would be any.

I wish they would propose something like this in bayside or something.
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Old 02-26-2008, 12:17 PM   #3
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I think the whole 'walkable' and 'sense of community' look they are going for will be hard due to it's location. It's hard to create a 'place' from nothing, without it coming off as feeling very fake. From the PPH website:



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Old 02-26-2008, 12:43 PM   #4
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Interesting proposal, but isn't the timing off? Maybe by the time the finish it, the economy will be booming again, but I doubt they'd get much support from the community for something like this especially in a tight economy.

I can't see a project of this scale happening in Westbrook at any point in the near future; it's just far too huge. Some of it just doesn't make sense... You have the relatively new Cinemagic Westbrook (under a year still, right?) and the brand new Cinemagic Clarks Pond very near, so movie theater probably isn't that much of a brilliant idea.

The location, while close to roadways, leaves a bunch to be to desired. First off, all comparisons to the Navy Pier, Union Station, Quincy Market, and the Inner Harbor are lost when you consider that those areas are located in or near large city centers and draw on the pedestrian traffic already existing in those areas; it's safe to say that Westbrook does not have the pedestrian traffic to draw from as Washington D.C. or Chicago do. Second, most of those places have some sort of natural draw as well (the Lake in Chicago, the Inner Harbor in Baltimore), what draw does Westbrook have? It doesn't make sense.

Finally, If i were a Portland resident, this project would leave me fuming. Portland is lucky enough to be one of a few small New England cities to still have a thriving downtown area; post war development (for the most part) has been kind to Porltand in leaving the waterfront attached to the city and not destroying too many neighborhoods. Why on earth would people want to build something that could potentially draw people away from the center of Portland? The Navy Pier, Quincy Market, Harbour Place, and Union Station all coexist with their respective city centers, this would just detract from Portland's. Corey was correct; if something like this were proposed (obviously on a smaller scale) near the center of town (like Bayside), it would be better, but this proposal is just an example of suburban sprawl, and the city of Portland just might not be able to handle it.

In the proposed location, the best one could hope for is something like the N. Conway outlets or Wrentham Outlets, but even that isn't necessarily a good thing. Freeport and Kittery are far enough away so they don't take away from Porltand, but something that large of scale and that close to town can't be a good thing. Suburban sprawl is not usually a good thing even if they try to dress it up as "pedestrian friendly." Maybe i'm too much of a pessimist, but I can't see how this would be good for the area.
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Old 02-26-2008, 01:03 PM   #5
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Very well said Lrfox! I concur.

I think Downtown Portland is still clawing back from the initial impact of the mall area.
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Old 02-26-2008, 01:42 PM   #6
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corey View Post
I think the whole 'walkable' and 'sense of community' look they are going for will be hard due to it's location. It's hard to create a 'place' from nothing, without it coming off as feeling very fake. From the PPH website:



A pipe dream! It makes no sense. Why do we need another mega cinema and another indoor sports facility? Indoor Sports facilities and indoor ice rinks are not big money makers.
Like most large projects in the greater Portland area, it will likely never happen.
How about a new 9,000 seat arena and a mid sized convention center w/ an attached 4 to 5 star hotel.
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:45 PM   #7
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I thought the Maine Mall was in Kittery? Is this one South Portland where the large retail area is?
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:50 PM   #8
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

^^ Haha. The Maine Mall area (the indoor mall itself is tiny, so box stores have built up around it in the years following completion) is in S. Portland and S. Portland is where most of the Suburban Box-Store retail is (with some in bordering areas in Westbrook and Scarborough and more in Falmouth). Kittery (nearly 50 mi. South) has some outlets as does Freeport (about 15-20 miles North and home of L.L. Bean and the world famous DeLorme Globe).

The reason this proposal is so dumb is that it's a stone's throw from the Maine Mall (within a mile) and it's also VERY close to two brand new movie compounds. There really is no market for this type of development, especially so close to existing development. It's just a bad idea. Downtown Portland could use a scaled down Quincy Market (the public market was just never quite sufficient, not to mention it was indoors) type of development, but in Westbrook? No way.
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:58 PM   #9
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

In Maine's climate, isn't an indoor market a good idea?
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:13 PM   #10
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Quote:
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In Maine's climate, isn't an indoor market a good idea?
Some of the more long term residents would be better suited to give a you an answer than I am but I would say yes and no. Some indoor space is a good thing, but the Portland Public market was tiny and from my experiences (first visit in 1998), underutilized. It would be nice to see some open air market space in town. Even if it's only used May-October (peak tourist season in Portland), it would do well. Portland's winters aren't too much worse than Boston's, with temperatures during the day being pretty similar on average (night time temperatures are a different story) so an outdoor market could be successful. An indoor market, if located and used properly could be successful, but if the fate of the Portland Public market is any signal, it has to be done perfectly.

Many more people are here in the summer, and those people like to wander the streets which is why I think that an outdoor market that's used 6 months out of the year could be more successful than an indoor market that's used for 12. In any case, large retail development in Westbrook is not good for downtown Portland whether it's indoor or out.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:13 AM   #11
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Not to bump, but I was so convinced that this was a terrible idea and it would have no support, I was literaly stupified when I was talking to my girlfriend's mom yesterday and she voiced excitement about it.

We were talking about upscale shopping (and her daughter's reaction to Neiman Marcus pricetags last weekend at Copley Place which was histerical to me) and she mentioned the Westbrook development and how exciting it would be to have some nicer stores (such as Nordstrom). I briefly brushed on the potential impacts to downtown Portland, the redundancy of some of the pieces of the proposal (such as movie theaters) as well as the traffic impact to the area, etc.

She didn't seem too concerned, and focused primarily on the positives of having some upscale shopping nearby (it's worth noting that she lives off of Eastern Road in Scarborough, so traffic wouldn't really affect her). Now, I've only been here for 4 years, so it's safe to say that my knowledge of the area is nowhere near as extensive as most people on this forum or in the area, but am I in the minority in thinking this is a bad proposal? Maybe I'm not really justified in being surprised in her reaction, but I was surprised no less.
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:27 PM   #12
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I'm confident that you are in the majority in giving this project a thumbs down, lrfox. I was initially excited, but that wore off quickly after reading further and seeing some pictures. The thing that I dislike the most about this is that it's just not a favorable location and it's (if it were built) going to be entirely fake feeling (obviously, it's a mall). The people behind the designs have worked in Boston and Washington DC among other places and they must take us for suckers for wanting to build this out in a field instead of utilizing our thriving downtown area. I like development, and years ago I never thought I'd say something like this, but I would much prefer that this land remain a field compared to this alternative.
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Old 02-29-2008, 05:36 PM   #13
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Quote:
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The people behind the designs have worked in Boston and Washington DC among other places and they must take us for suckers for wanting to build this out in a field instead of utilizing our thriving downtown area.
Those are exactly my feelings on this project. How can you compare areas in the cores of D.C., Baltimore, Boston and Chicago to a field in Westbrook, ME? They say the focus is pedestrian, but it's not like you can just jump off of the subway or walk a few blocks from the office to get to this Mall (like you said, it is what it is); you have to drive in and park (and therefore making it about as pedestrian focused as the Maine Mall or any Outlet Complex in N. Conway or Wrentham).

I don't get why they wouldn't want to build something (even if it's scaled down) closer to the center of town. There's a lot of underutilized space in Portland that's prime area for mixed-use pedestrian friendly development.

Finally, can Portland handle this scale development in outskirts? Why would anyone support something that could potentially take away from downtown business? Now I'm just getting redundant, but this one bugs me. Thanks for echoing my concern for the project.
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Old 02-29-2008, 05:44 PM   #14
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I don't know Wrentham, but my impression of the North Conway commercial district is that it's fairly compact and easy to cover on foot, despite the parking lots. It's clustered around the old railway station (now a seasonal tourist-only operation).
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Old 02-29-2008, 05:55 PM   #15
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

I should have been more specific. I was talking about the Outlet center there that's very similar to the outlets in Wrentham.

A shot from flickr of the outlet center:
the link to the Settler's Green website- http://www.settlersgreen.com/


N. Conway itself is an picturesque mountain village.
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Old 02-29-2008, 06:18 PM   #16
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

That must be relatively new. I don't think it existed when I last visited North Conway (via Concord Trailways bus and bicycle).
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Old 05-05-2008, 01:36 PM   #17
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

Maines not much colder than boston
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Old 05-05-2008, 04:45 PM   #18
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

^I beg to differ. mid day temperatures are similar (varying by a few degrees) in S. Maine and Boston through most of the year; but during Fall/Winter/Spring (and to a lesser extent, Summer), there's a noticeable difference in the temperatures during the morning, afternoon/evening, and night. The significant temperature difference during these few hours could make all the difference in the world in terms attracting customers to an open air market.
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Old 05-05-2008, 09:55 PM   #19
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

its less about the actual temp difference and more about the amount of snow they get.
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Old 05-05-2008, 11:09 PM   #20
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Re: Gigantic plans for Westbrook

But the lower temperatures are the difference between the snow staying from December-April (Maine) and melting after a week or so (Boston Area). I'm not saying it doesn't snow more in Maine, ( because those December/ January freezing rain storms Boston has are all snow in Maine) but part of the difference is the snow that falls doesn't go away while in the Boston area, it mostly is gone within a two week period of the storm and that's temperature related.
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