Sunday, May 19, 2013
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.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: