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Old 09-24-2012, 09:18 AM   #1
Dr. StrangeHat
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Westbrook, ME

Seems as though there might actually be some demand for Westbrook having it's own thread, so I'm going to go ahead and create one.

To kick this all off, I'm repeating some of my initial thoughts for downtown Westbrook (I have a whole lot more). I consider the "core" downtown to be the stretch from Stroudwater Street to Saco Street, from William Clarke Drive to the river, but also including One Riverfront Plaza (Disability RMS) and the Dana Warp Mill.

From the "Portland, ME - New Construction Thread":

I grew up in Westbrook, work downtown Westbrook and own a home here now, so I do see what grittys457 is seeing and talking about. But I don't have as dire an outlook. There is a whole lot of potential here if someone would just invest in it.

For example:

(1) Tear down the old Main Rubber plant and the discount liquor store, and replace it with a mized use development that incorporates the newer building next to the discount liquor store and the building Profenno's bar/restaurant is located in.

(2) Revisit the 5-7 story residential tower idea on the site of Sacarpappa Park.

(3) Build two buildings like the artist condo/apartments mentioned above on the site of the old gas station (post environmental clean-up, which will likely take some Federal funds).

(4) Build some sort of two-level parking structure with retail or offices facing William Clarke Drive and Center Street in the parking lot behind CVS/Family Discount, in addition to filling in the gap between CVS and the building next to it (currently parking).

Plus, I love the idea presented in this article of shifting the Bridge Street bridge west, extending the boardwalk along the river and creating a small pedestrian mall in between the buildings housing Portland Pie and Frog & Turtle:

http://www.keepmecurrent.com/america...9bb2963f4.html

I agree that there are parts of downtown further east on Main Street that are becoming a Skid Row of sorts (not to mention Brown Street, which has always been a Skid Row of sorts), but some investments in the core downtown area between Stroudwater Street and Saco Street could go a long way.
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Old 09-24-2012, 09:19 AM   #2
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Re: Westbrook, ME

I'm also hoping to get some pictures of the IDEXX expansion up here soon. I drove by last weekend and things are looking good.
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Old 09-24-2012, 01:03 PM   #3
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Making sure IDEXX stayed was huge and Disability RMS is a nice bonus. A problem is that it's a drive through downtown. It's like the hallway between your kitchen and living room. Lot of traffic but not many people stopping.

What would have been a nice boost was if Gritty's would have decided to take the spot where Stockhouse station went. Grittys took a look at it first and ended up passing. Having a name like that would have added something.

They need to have cops start doing foot traffic on Main st. Hell ride bikes if you want. It would also be nice if five years old had a parent with them instead of running around by themselves.

There is just no real foot traffic downtown. It is beyond a ghost town on a Sunday. But yeah building up a core around a block or two would be a good start. It's just not a very ambitious place. Young or old there aren't many people who want new things there. That's fine if that's the way you want to live but it makes it very hard to grow when nobody gives a shit as long as they have Dunkin Donuts and a cumbies.
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Old 09-24-2012, 07:26 PM   #4
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Re: Westbrook, ME

So chapter the first of "Defense of Westbrook". While we all realize the disadvantages of Westbrook's downtown having been raped by urban renewal, what I find to be positive about the current situation is that the city does too -(big ole pdf - careful on those data plans) You cannot read an article in the local paper about downtown without some mention of urban renewal. Every plan I have read recognizes it, and seems to hit all the right ideas - infill/ transportation/ walkability/ buildings addressing the streetscape/ fewer parking lots/ building height minimums/ etc. when suggesting what to do to fix it

Another plus side is that the town HAS a downtown to rebuild. Of all of Portland's suburbs, I believe it is the only one with some semblance of the potential of a legitimate, walkable downtown. Willard in Sopo is at best a small square, and Mill Creek, though recovering, will always be hidden behind the strip mall monstrosity at the end of the bridge. The Mall is the mall - Scarborough lining right up behind it on Payne Rd. Gorham probably is built out about all it will be for the next few decades, Cape is the quintessential bedroom community, with some little pocket squares, but nothing that would be a downtown. Windham is 302 strip malls, Falmouth is Rte 1 strip malls.

Westbrook's Main St is central to the bulk of its residential population, It retains enough of the original bones of its downtown that it is recognizable as one, even if SEVERELY hampered by the fact that there is almost nothing to do there yet besides eat and go home.

I lived in Somerville MA, right outside of Davis Square, when Somerville was still "Slummerville", 3 bedroom rents were under 600 bucks, and the square was the theater, someday cafe, mike's, redbone's, mckinnon's, sligo's. a bakery, and some greek diner/ buffet that I was sure was where people went to plan murders.

When I moved to Maine, I bought in Westbrook because I saw, and still see, the potential for a smaller scale version of the renaissance that Davis saw in the 90's

I know from experience that the caricature of the 3 pack-a-day baby-daddy walking down the street with a stroller on his way to knock over a pharmacy for Oxy isn't always all that removed from reality. (First purchase was a 2-family on Brackett St - fell in love with the house, didn't know any better about the area). But for every 1 of those caricatures I see, I know of 10 locals bemoaning their effect on the town. Those others are there, give them a reason to come out and they will. Unfortunately "build it and they will come" makes for a lousy business plan, and filling downtown will depend on a series of good business plans to start.
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Old 09-24-2012, 07:34 PM   #5
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Quote:
(2) Revisit the 5-7 story residential tower idea on the site of Sacarpappa Park.
While I was firmly in support of this idea - and still feel it to be an ideal development location - there is a major water main that bisects this site - that is what derailed it the first time. The main could be moved, but the expense is prohibitive for the foreseeable future. Current planning has infill around, including the current parking lot next to the Portland pie building, and making better use of this public space as a more legitimate park.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:34 AM   #6
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Re: Westbrook, ME

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Originally Posted by grittys457 View Post
What would have been a nice boost was if Gritty's would have decided to take the spot where Stockhouse station went. Grittys took a look at it first and ended up passing. Having a name like that would have added something.
Really? Just this past summer my wife and I were sitting ont he deck at Stockhouse on a nice Sunday afternoon (and the place was dead...they only really seem to do well on their wing night), and I said to her "How great would it be is this was Gritty's instead?" Stockhouse is decent, but it's no Gritty's.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:38 AM   #7
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Davepacz - I agree wholeheartedly. I see old pictures of downtown before urban renweal and wonder "what if they hadn't torn everything down?" Heck, there was not one, but TWO theaters downtown at one point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davepacz View Post
While I was firmly in support of this idea - and still feel it to be an ideal development location - there is a major water main that bisects this site - that is what derailed it the first time. The main could be moved, but the expense is prohibitive for the foreseeable future. Current planning has infill around, including the current parking lot next to the Portland pie building, and making better use of this public space as a more legitimate park.
I knew there was something that held that up, but I couldn't remember what that was. I wonder if the city could use the infrastructure grant they received to tear down the old Maine Rubber Plant to help offset the costs to move that water main, since the owner of the Maine Rubber Plant seems hell-bent on building a drive-though bank (which I stated in the other thread if the absolute last thing downtown Westbrook needs)?
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Old 12-13-2012, 01:45 PM   #8
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Here's an update on the proposed re-allignment of the Bridge Street bridge, since I referenced it in my original post above:

http://www.keepmecurrent.com/america...a4bcf887a.html

Personally I'd like to see them completely close off the section of Bridge Street from Main Street to the river once the new bridge is finished, rather than maintaining a driveway to the parking lots. Those lots could still be accessed from other directions, and they could add another 3-4 on-street parking spots along Main Street. It would create a larger, more complete pedestrian "mall", if you will. I'd also love to see something similar across Main Street where there is parking next to CVS. There's plenty of parking available behind the building.

Regardless of what they do with that stretch of road, I think this is a good thing for Downtown Westbrook. It will hopefully create a more inviting, pedestrian-friendly environment.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:45 AM   #9
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Anyone remember the retail and office complex that was proposed in Westbrook and supposed to be bigger than the Maine Mall (which was the dumbest proposed development I've seen around here in a long time)?

Here's an update on the land:

http://www.pressherald.com/business/...012-12-20.html

I'd like to see this area developed, but we're already at almost full retail saturation around here. We don't need any more retail complexes, malls, strip malls, etc.
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Old 12-20-2012, 03:08 PM   #10
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. StrangeHat View Post
Anyone remember the retail and office complex that was proposed in Westbrook and supposed to be bigger than the Maine Mall (which was the dumbest proposed development I've seen around here in a long time)?

Here's an update on the land:

http://www.pressherald.com/business/...012-12-20.html

I'd like to see this area developed, but we're already at almost full retail saturation around here. We don't need any more retail complexes, malls, strip malls, etc.
Would be nice to see it developed as a bio-tech/hi-tech business park/campus.......maybe with some light retail/restaurant development to support it.
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Old 12-20-2012, 03:51 PM   #11
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Re: Westbrook, ME

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Originally Posted by mainejeff View Post
Would be nice to see it developed as a bio-tech/hi-tech business park/campus.......maybe with some light retail/restaurant development to support it.
I'm not a huge fan of campus-style office developments, but if there is a place to put one, it's there.

I was just looking at this property on Google Maps and happened to scroll over to the old Blue Rock quarry/open-pit mine in between Larabee Road and the Maine Turnpike:

http://maps.google.com/?ll=43.674778...09055&t=h&z=17

Two observations:

(1) It appears that Pike is re-filling the pit; and

(2) I've always thought that this would be a great location for a small outdoor amphitheater for the Greater Portland area. There's plenty of land for parking, great access to I-95, and putting it inside an open-pit mine would cut down on the noise pollution to the sorrounding area. I'm sure there has to be some sort of available technology to compensate for the poor acoustics inside the pit. Think about it; no more having to drive 2+ hours to Mansfield, MA, Guilford, NH or Bangor, ME for outdoor summer concerts!

Total pipe-dream, I know, but a guy can dream, can't he?
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:08 AM   #12
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Apparently this guy still wants to move forward with this development:

http://www.keepmecurrent.com/america...9bb2963f4.html

Another pipedream. Per my comment on the article, I think this land and the adjacent property is probably best suited to be developed as a classic-style residential neighborhood closer to Stroudwater Street and the cemetary and as office buildings closer to the Turnpike and the Westbrook Arterial.

They'll probably build another @#$%@#$@# strip mall here, though. I hate strip malls with a passion. HATE them.

Last edited by Dr. StrangeHat; 01-03-2013 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:33 AM   #13
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Re: Westbrook, ME

I really hope the city council sticks to its guns too. The entire point of the contract zone was to hold the snake-oil salesman to some of his lofty claims. It was done specifically to prevent the area from becoming a series of strip malls. For him to now cry "anti-business" and try to wriggle out from the same contract zone designed to keep him honest is dissemblance to say the least.

The property is also on one likely route for the Westbrook/ Gorham bypass that's been floated as an idea by the DOT for connecting Larrabee Rd to Eisenhower Drive. This could potentially derail any residential sub-development ideas there, setting up the area for more office park/ retail, but who knows.

Completely unfinished map
I've been experimenting with showing some of the developments in the town since the mill downsizing includes the bypass with a guess as to route.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:24 PM   #14
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Re: Westbrook, ME

They are filling in the pit. I heard that an employee there said they'll be filling it in longer than they have been taking out. My concern is what is being used to fill it in, I have a feeling they are not too concerned what is in the dump trucks.
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Old 01-02-2013, 10:12 AM   #15
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davepacz View Post
Completely unfinished map
I've been experimenting with showing some of the developments in the town since the mill downsizing includes the bypass with a guess as to route.
Nice!

Calpine and Spring Harbor Hospital are also notable developments since the downsizing of the mill.

The draft of the 2012 Comphrensive Plan has a nice list of all residential and commercial developments in town between 2000 and 2010 (Table 2-3 on pages 2-7 and 2-8, i.e. pages 20 and 21 of the pdf).
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:16 PM   #16
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Some news about the potential re-development of the Maine Rubber site:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/West...ber-plant.html

I'm not pleased with this part:

"In exchange, the city would give to the Elowitches the portion of Saco Street that connects William Clarke Drive and Main Street in front of their property. The city would also make drive-through banks permitted on the property. They are considered a special exception in its current zone."

So the City of Westbrook spends all this time and effort on the Downtown Revitalization and Streetscape plans, then they spit in the face of those by allowing a drive-though bank, especially in a high-profile "gateway" location like this.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:50 PM   #17
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Re: Westbrook, ME

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. StrangeHat View Post
Some news about the potential re-development of the Maine Rubber site:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/West...ber-plant.html

I'm not pleased with this part:

"In exchange, the city would give to the Elowitches the portion of Saco Street that connects William Clarke Drive and Main Street in front of their property. The city would also make drive-through banks permitted on the property. They are considered a special exception in its current zone."

So the City of Westbrook spends all this time and effort on the Downtown Revitalization and Streetscape plans, then they spit in the face of those by allowing a drive-though bank, especially in a high-profile "gateway" location like this.
I wonder if they are going to discontinue the short section of Saco Street or squeeze it down? Although short, I consider it a critical key street to get out of town, or onto Main Street from Saco Street proper.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:56 AM   #18
Dr. StrangeHat
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Re: Westbrook, ME

It sounds like they're going to discontinue that section altogether, which I'm also opposed to. There's a new traffic signal at Mechanic Street and William Clarke Drive, which would help ease the loss of that section of Saco Street. However, the intersection of Mechanic and Main Street will become a absolute nightmare once the Bridge Street Bridge is re-alligned, even without the loss of that sections of Saco Street. Adding the Saco Street bound traffic to that intersection will make it even worse.

I'm going to attend the Planning Board meeting on the 5th and will report back.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:49 PM   #19
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Re: Westbrook, ME

I've never been to a planning board meeting myself, but I might have to make this my first. Further attempts to sub-urbanize a downtown gutted by the last attempts to do so gets my NIMBY hackles up.

The city has already bent over backwards for the owners in an effort to get rid of the eyesore that's currently there. They've paid architects and applied for and received a Community Development Block Grant to help with the demo and get them started. All to try to make this a signature entryway to the town. In return the Elowitches obsess on a suburban-style drive through bank and parking lot.

Looking at the bank plan, it appears that there are possibly additional curb cuts on to 25 involved, which I believe I read somewhere that the DOT frowns upon, and is one of the reasons the Porell property just west of this intersection as it bends towards Gorham remains undeveloped. That might be why they are talking about closing that section of Saco St, to work around that potential issue.

Westbrook's website has the existing building there listed as 30,132 sq ft. Given the amount of pavement in the sketch plan that was up while this was for sale, it would likely be a 3 story building, or they separate a two story building and a one story drive through bank on opposite sides of the lot. Either way, likely not what the town had planned.
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:34 AM   #20
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Re: Westbrook, ME

It does appear that removing that short section of Saco Street is part of the plan:

http://www.westbrookmaine.com/vertic...e_(2-5_PB).pdf
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