Westbrook Housing plans to hire architects to design a multi-story building for the western end of Westbrook’s Main Street, in hopes that this will attract a commercial partner to share in developing and owning the site, which used to house Maine Rubber Co.
It is the most detailed public proposal yet for the property at the intersection of Main and Saco streets and William Clarke Drive, which the city has long seen as an impediment to developing the downtown area.
The plan calls for demolishing the existing, rundown structure and constructing a building with commercial space on the street level and several floors of apartments above it.
If Westbrook Housing does find a business that wants to move into the building and partner on the project, the housing authority will propose buying the property from owner David Elowitch, City Administrator Jerre Bryant said Wednesday. Ownership would eventually be shared with the commercial partner.
The City Council gave preliminary approval on Monday to spend $4,000 for PDT Architects of Portland to come up with a building design. Westbrook Housing would contribute to the design costs, Bryant said.
PDT has already completed a sketch of the building. John Gallagher, executive director of Westbrook Housing, was on vacation this week and unavailable to talk about the details.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Mayor Colleen Hilton. “It’s just a concept that has been put forth, but there seems to be some forward momentum.”
In addition to partially paying for the design, the city is acting as go-between for the property owner and Westbrook Housing, Bryant said.
“The city has a very keen interest in seeing this and other properties in the downtown redeveloped,” he said.
Elowitch said he would not comment on the proposal until more progress has been made. He has said that he has worked for 15 years to try to come up with a plan for site — proposals have included a gas station, an office building and a restaurant — but none has been realized.
Last year, the city secured a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for demolition of the 27,000-square-foot Maine Rubber building and any needed cleanup of the site.
The deadline for the city to use the grant is the end of this year, but it could apply for an extension, said Aaron Shapiro, director of community development for Cumberland County, which oversees the grant.
Maine Rubber moved out of the site in the 1990s, and the building since has been rented as storage space, Elowitch has said.
Hilton said having more rental properties and foot traffic downtown have been identified by city planners as priorities for Westbrook, and this proposal would address those needs.
“I’m thrilled that it keeps moving forward,” she said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at: