The Westbrook Planning Board will vote Nov. 3 on a proposed $60 million combination greenhouse, apartment complex and parking garage. Courtesy

WESTBROOK— Planning Board members spoke in favor of a multi-use parking garage and vertical greenhouse at a public hearing Oct. 20.

The $60 million project is a collaboration between the city and developers that would see the Mechanic Street parking lot downtown turned into a free parking garage, topped with over 50 apartments and a Vertical Harvest farm along the structure’s side.

A rendering of what the view would be looking southwest from Main Street. Courtesy

“I love this project,” Ward 2 member Jason Frazier said. “It has jobs, parking, housing. It’s the perfect project.” 

The greenhouse would produce about 1 million pounds of food per year and bring in 56 full-time jobs with a focus on providing careers for people with disabilities.

“This is the equivalent of 40 acres worth of food, using 90% less land and water,” developer Nona Yehia said. “We recirculate all of the water we use in the greenhouse. … We aim for our food to be sold and consumed within the state of Maine and from farm-to-fork in less than 24 hours.”

The Planning Board members, on the right, look at the first-floor ground plan at their public hearing Oct. 20. Courtesy photo

The garage will be maintained by the developers, while city residents will still have access to over 400 free parking spaces.

According to Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson, they are confident the greenhouse will be successful, though developers did say that if need be, it could be turned into some other workspace.

“In my career, this is one of the strongest business models I have seen,” Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson said.

“I am thrilled,” Ward 4 member Robin Tannenbaum said. “We are touching a lot of exciting areas and contributing to densification. To set the bar high, where there is still room, I’d like to see more development of the design to let the building sing.” 

Coming from the other side of the river into Main Street and into the downtown, that building is going to tower over all of these other, so why not?” Board Chairperson Rene Daniels said. “It would make it pop, it would be outstanding,” 

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.

“It’s been a goal of ours for a while to start expanding vertically downtown, and this meets that,” Ward 5 member Ed Reidman said.

The Planning Board will vote on the project Nov. 3.

A rendering of the building. Some Board members called for a more lively facade for the apartments on the top floor. Courtesy

Developers say there will be space outdoors with vegetation for some outdoor opportunities, as well as common spaces within the building for residents. Courtesy

 

 

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