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May 6, 2013

Westbrook rubber plant could come down soon

By Leslie Bridgers
lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — A dilapidated former rubber factory in downtown Westbrook could come down within the next three months if the City Council approves an agreement with the building's owners Monday.

Brothers Dave and Jim Elowitch have wanted to redevelop their Main Street site since Maine Rubber Co. moved out of the 27,000-square-foot building in the late 1990s, but only recently have the city and the owners come together on what should be allowed there.

The solution involves a contract zone for the site and a land swap between the owners and the city.

The contract zone would allow a drive-through bank as a permitted use on the property, rather than as a special exception, which it is now.

The council will hold a public hearing, then take a final vote on the zone change at its meeting Monday.

The council will also vote on whether to give the Elowitches a portion of Saco Street in front of their property in exchange for a slice of their land along William Clarke Drive, where the city would like to add a traffic lane.

Approval would require the building to come down in 90 days. The cost of the demolition will be covered, at least in part, by a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant that the city secured in 2011.

The council gave preliminary approval to both the zone change and the land swap last month in two 6-1 votes, with Victor Chau opposed both times.

Chau said last week he voted against the proposals because some of his constituents thought a bank wouldn't be the best use of the property.

Chau said he'd love to see something like the Intermed building on Marginal Way in Portland -- 10 stories high with a parking garage underneath.

"That'll be the dream," he said.

City officials have stressed the importance of the site as the western gateway to Westbrook -- the first prominent property coming into the downtown from Gorham.

They have said the former rubber plant has impeded development on that end of Main Street, where there are several run-down buildings and vacant storefronts.

Jim Elowitch said he didn't know if there were any potential tenants in talks with his broker. If the council approves the agreement Monday, he said, it "should be a little easier to get someone."

He said he and his brother would prefer to develop a building for a tenant or lease the land, but they would sell the property "if someone makes us an offer we can't refuse."

The ultimate goal, he said, is to "put a building in there that people can be proud of and we can make a profit from."

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com





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