September 19, 2013

Westbrook dreams big on downtown rebirth

By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Mayor Colleen Hilton and William Baker, assistant city administrator, talk Tuesday about the economic future of Westbrook, especially the potential removal of the Sappi dam on the Presumpscot River, while standing in Saccarappa Park.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Westbrook hopes to obtain Sappi Ltd.’s hydroelectric dam, above, then remove it to create a waterfront and recreation area.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

"Westbrook has really adapted," she said. "I think it's pretty amazing."

The city is home to Idexx Laboratories Inc., one of Westbrook's largest and fastest-growing employers, which recently completed a $35 million, 108,000-square-foot expansion of its headquarters facility.

Bangor-based Husson University has purchased a 34,000-square-foot building in Westbrook and plans to relocate from its South Portland location in early 2014.

Still, it would take a lot more job growth to make up for the city's losses in manufacturing employment.

Hilton said city officials will have to take better advantage of downtown features such as the Presumpscot and reintroduce people to an area they may not have visited since its purpose was primarily industrial.

"When the (paper) mill was operating, there was quite a stench, if you will," she said. "That's been long gone."

John Murphy, president of the Westbrook-based Maine Credit Union League, said the city has proven to be a good place for the organization and its 150 employees because of the relatively low cost and business-friendly government.

He commended Assistant City Administrator William Baker, who is in charge of economic development, for asking local business leaders regularly for their input on city planning issues.

"Bill Baker has been a great liaison between our organization and the city of Westbrook," Murphy said.

If there's a downside to the area, it's the lack of restaurants, Murphy said.

"Our employees would like to see more options for lunch," he said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com Twitter: @jcraiganderson

 

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