WESTBROOK — Where others might see a vast and largely empty expanse of snow and ice, Josh Levy sees a big, bustling community built around an abandoned gravel quarry.

That bustle will start this summer, when Shinedown, a hard rock band, will put on a concert at an amphitheater in a corner of Rock Row, the 100-acre site that Levy is developing in Westbrook.

Levy said the pieces are coming together for his vision of the development. The city has approved plans for the first phase, anchored by a new Market Basket grocery store and some smaller shops, including The Paper Store and a Starbucks. Levy’s Waterstone Properties just signed a $14.5 million contract with Shaw Bros. construction for the initial phase, and those stores are scheduled to open this fall.

The amphitheater is scheduled to be completed in May and will accommodate about 8,200 people.

A rendering of the proposed Rock Row development in Westbrook.

So far, only the Shinedown concert on June 29 has been scheduled, but more acts are expected to be announced in coming months. The venue offers another option for performances that had been on Portland’s Maine State Pier or at Thompson’s Point.

In April, Levy will go to the Westbrook City Council to outline his plans for phase 2, the core of Rock Row, which includes streets lined with dozens of shops and restaurants, offices and as many as 1,000 apartments.

Levy said he looked at dozens of mixed-use developments around the country after his Massachusetts-based company bought the site from a Maine developer in 2017. A project that caught his eye was named Avalon, in Alpharetta, Georgia – north of Atlanta – which has a half-million square feet of retail space and more than 100,000 square feet of office space. Most of the core of that development is designed for access by pedestrians only, with activities to bring people into the complex’s center.

“We have shamelessly cloned a lot of what was successful there,” Levy said, although the plan in Maine calls for hundreds of apartments, while Avalon has single-family residences and luxury rentals.

Levy hopes his project will be a sustainable, mixed-use, high-density development that will complement its surroundings. The site is located between downtown Westbrook and the western edge of Portland along Brighton Avenue.

The amphitheater, called Maine Savings Pavilion, will be located near the Portland border of the development. Plans are for a temporary stage and seating this year as the concert promoter, Waterfront Concerts, and Levy determine whether a permanent venue is feasible on the site. It will be significantly larger than the Maine State Pier, where Waterfront Concerts has put on shows drawing about 3,000 people, and similar to Thompson’s Point, which has been approved for a capacity of 10,000 but has mostly hosted concert crowds of about 5,000.

NEW USE FOR OLD SITE

Like any real estate developer, Levy tells visitors that he was attracted by the location, conveniently connected to Interstate 95 by a couple of exits. The complex will be bounded by I-95, Larrabee Road and Main Street in Westbrook.

For years, it was a gravel quarry, not much beloved by neighbors who complained about noise, dust and blasting. But Levy wants to turn that around and said he sees the quarry as a key feature of Rock Row. He will allow it to fill up with water and is talking with production and lighting companies about regular nighttime displays.

He wants parking pushed toward the outside of the development, with the core, built around a triangular central plaza, reserved for pedestrians. A large food and beer hall is planned and Levy said he’s already signed a deal for a 12-screen movie theater, with details to be announced soon. Levy plans to work with Portland Trails to link walking and biking paths throughout the development.

“It doesn’t look like it now, but there’s going to be a lot going on here,” he said, rattling off a list of activities that includes ice skating, farmers’ markets and water shows in addition to shopping and dining.

Most of this year will be focused on completing the grocery store and that portion of the project, Levy said. If he gets approval from the city for the next phase, he said, construction will occupy 2020, with most of the stores, restaurants, offices and apartments opening in 2021.

Jennie Franceschi, the city’s director of planning, said her staff and Levy’s have been working cooperatively on the project. Phase 1 was approved with almost no opposition except for a shadowy company that said grocery stores weren’t explicitly included in the zoning for the site. The company filed and then dropped a lawsuit over the issue

Jerre Bryant, Westbrook’s city administrator, said there’s been no widespread opposition to the project. Neighbors near the amphitheater are worried about noise and traffic on concert nights, he said, and the city will limit how many shows can be staged, install decibel meters to determine if noise is a problem and stage patrols to manage traffic and parking during concerts.

He said Levy’s company has been cooperative in helping to perform and pay for work designed to improve roads and intersections around the development, as required in the city approval process.

“We’re in the creative phase to come up with the plan for the next five years,” Bryant said. “This is a real opportunity to do something big.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]


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