WESTBROOK — A proposal for a shopping center that would bring several new stores and restaurants to the city raised some concerns among residents at a public hearing Tuesday night but appeared to be on track for eventual approval.

The planned Dirigo Plaza would add 500,000 square feet of new retail buildings on the 80-acre site at the intersection of Main Street and Larrabee Road, between two Maine Turnpike exits. The developer, Jeffrey Gove, plans to convert a 20-acre quarry on the site into a lake ringed by a recreation area.

The only confirmed retailer at the site is Wal-Mart, which would be an anchor store for the new shopping center. Gove declined Tuesday to name any other tenants in the plaza, but said most were national retailers.

“I don’t make announcements for my tenants, they make them themselves,” he said. If the project is approved, it could open by October 2017, Gove added.

The Planning Board on Tuesday approved waivers allowing the developer to have less than the minimum number of parking spaces and submit a set of plans instead of a single plan for the project, but did not take a vote on the proposal itself. The developer is still awaiting permits from state agencies.

Wayne Morrill, from Jones and Beach Engineers, told the board that the project would be built in two phases. The north campus, at the corner of Larrabee Road and Main Street and including the quarry, would be built out first.


The Wal-Mart would be located in an approximately 155,000-square-foot space bordering Larrabee Road, next to another large retail space. A number of stores and a fast food restaurant would be housed in a building strip along Main Street and two sit-down restaurants would be positioned near the proposed lake.

Morrill said the buildings along Main Street would be designed as a pedestrian-friendly streetscape with plantings and an information kiosk, although the buildings could only be entered from Dirigo Plaza parking lot, not the street.

The shopping center would provide pedestrian access to every store and would have extensive landscaping. It would take about five years to fill the 314-foot-deep quarry, which could be used for ice skating and other activities, and would be surrounded by a multi-use trail, Morrill said. A small warming hut would double as a pump house to draw water from the lake, he added.

Traffic improvements along Main Street and Larrabee Road – including new turning lanes, bike lanes, street light configurations and traffic islands – would be part of the development.

The millions of dollars in road improvements would fix endemic problems in the area, Gove said.

A handful of residents voiced concerns about the development, including traffic, safety and the kind of stores that would fill the space.


Steve Willette said the city should consider an impact fee for developers to offset the possible drain on city services and questioned if the area could draw too much traffic and “bring in people we don’t want in this community.”

But “if you are going to have a Wal-Mart, this is probably the best place to do it,” Willette acknowledged.

Carolyn Barschow said she biked to work in Portland through the area and wanted to make sure traffic improvements would include safe bicycling lanes. She also questioned if the proposed lake would actually be a destination for people or would become an unsafe, underused area. The Planning Board discussed the safety issue, and Director of Planning Jennie Franceschi said Westbrook police could patrol the area to make sure it was safe.

The scale of the project made it attractive to large national retailers instead of local companies, Barschow said.

“It would be wonderful if we could attract more small businesses dedicated to paying a living wage,” she said.


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