WESTBROOK — The Planning Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved plans for the first phase of what could eventually become a 100-acre mixed use development near Westbrook’s border with Portland.
The approval is the last major local hurdle for the start of the Rock Row development on what used to be a quarry near Main Street and Larrabee Road. Plans for handling drainage and traffic around the development are pending with state officials, an engineer representing the developer said.
The initial phase calls for a Market Basket grocery store, which is expected to open by November 2019, and eight other buildings on the northwest corner of the site. A bank, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a handful of other retail uses will also go up in the next year, the developer said. Beyond the Market Basket and a Starbucks, officials for the developer, Waterstone Property Group, haven’t announced other tenants in the first phase.
In October, the developers will seek approval for an amphitheater on the far corner of the property, said Josh Levy, a principal for Waterstone. He said the rest of the development – as many as 750 apartments, restaurants, movie theaters, other retailers and offices – would come next.
Levy said the final build-out probably won’t be done until 2022. He declined to offer a value for the entire project, but said the first phase alone would be worth $38 million.
“It’s a long-term plan and we’re in it for the long haul,” he said. “We are the front door of Westbrook and we take that very seriously.”
Project officials walked the board through the details of the first phase, with drawings of the building facades, details on walkways, and drawings showing the locations of about 200 trees, some 2,000 shrubs and 8,000 flowers and other plants that will go into the project.
“We’re spending a large amount of money” just on landscaping, engineer Wayne Morrill told the board.
The only objection came during a brief public hearing, when a lawyer who said the board shouldn’t approve the proposal because grocery stores are not listed explicitly as an approved use in Westbrook’s “gateway zone,” which makes up most of the property, including the part where the Market Basket is supposed to be built.
But city officials said grocery stores fall under a general retail category in city definitions and they had determined the use is allowed on the site.
The lawyer, Michael Vaillancourt, said he represented the owner of 25 Brown St. in Westbrook, but he left the meeting before he could be asked about the objection. The address he cited contains a small apartment building nearly a mile from the site of the development.
Ed Reidman, the board’s chairman, noted that Vaillancourt emailed his objection to Westbrook’s Planning Department at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, as city offices were closing for the day.
“It’s a tragedy that you just came out of the woodwork,” Reidman said, pointing out that the city has been considering proposals for the property since 2015.
The board didn’t discuss Vaillancourt’s objection and moved on to a vote after several questions about details of the plan.
The original plan for the site, unveiled in 2015, called for a mostly retail development on about 80 acres on the former quarry site. It envisioned a traditional retail development, called Dirigo Plaza, but the plans changed after the land was bought by Waterstone last year. The project was renamed “Rock Row,” and a Walmart, which had encountered some local opposition, was dropped in favor of the Market Basket. The new owners also vastly increased the scope of the project, adding hundreds of new apartments to create a mixed-use development that also foresees dozens of offices, the housing and the expanded retail uses.
The city also approved a tax-increment financing plan that will redirect up to half of the new property tax revenue from the development into infrastructure improvements around the development, including changes to two nearby Maine Turnpike interchanges.
This rendering envisions Waterstone Properties Group’s proposal for a mixed-use urban development called “Rock Row” on the 26-acre former Pike Industries quarry site in Westbrook. The developer said last year that Market Basket would anchor the retail portion of the venture. (Artist’s rendering courtesy of Wakefield Beasley Associates)