A rendering, provided by TDB LLC., of what the parking garage, greenhouse and residential unit combo would look like on Mechanic Street. Contributed image

WESTBROOK— A new development could bring in hundreds of parking spaces and 50 apartments to the center of downtown.

Developers TDB LLC presented a roughly $60 million project to the City Council Monday that would turn the city-owned Mechanic Street parking lot into a four-story, 430-space free public garage with a 70,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse topped by apartments.

“It reuses and enhances an existing public asset, it’s central to downtown, so the benefit is to existing businesses, expanded businesses in the near future and perhaps new ones,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.

This would increase city parking spaces in the area from 143 spots to 430 in that lot, which, even with parking spaces taken by greenhouse workers and residents from the apartments above, would increase available spaces to the general public by over 200, according to Bryant.

“This is huge for our downtown, and will be the economic driver behind bringing even more in,” Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said. “Plus, now we know we have the parking to expand.”

The greenhouse, developers say, would produce 50 full-time jobs and generate over $1 million in purchases from local businesses and a million pounds of food each year.

According to Stevenson, the crops from the greenhouse will directly go back into local communities.

Something highlighted during this crisis is food security, being able to displace imported goods for a local supply chain is important,” developer Greg Day.

The greenhouse is based on a similar vertical structure in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but will be 10 times larger, Day said.

Stevenson said half of the jobs from the greenhouse will be geared toward people with disabilities while providing competitive wages.

“About 16% of Maine’s population has disabilities, only 33% are employed and making very little income, so this would be a targeted labor force and we’ve been speaking with the Department of Human Labor and Services to help accommodate this,” Day said.

Plans call for 50 “middle-market” apartments as well, Stevenson said, but details are not finalized.

The city will be paying $15 million for the parking garage through an agreement using tax revenue generated from the project, Stevenson said, meaning there will be no direct impact on taxpayers. Developers will take on $40 million of the cost.

While the city will own the garage, developers agreed to cover maintenance and operating costs associated with it.

Economic development group Discover Downtown Westbrook endorsed the project in a written statement, calling it a “potentially game-changing project downtown.”

TDB aims to have work start right away and have the building open in 2021, but the funding must go through City Council for approval.

“We are hoping this will be a catalyst for other projects downtown, ” Mayor Mike Foley said.

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