A new rendering showing what the expanded Vertical Harvest would look like if approved. Contributed / Westbrook Planning Department

Developers of the Vertical Harvest project want to add another 6,000-7,000 square feet of retail space and 10 more apartments, for a total of 60, to the building they plan for downtown Westbrook.

The City Council received an update on the Vertical Harvest expansion plans Monday along with other updates on ongoing projects throughout the city, including repairs to the Cornelia Warren outdoor pool, which have hit a roadblock.

Work is expect to begin in late summer or early fall on the $60 million Vertical Harvest building at Mechanic and Main streets, but the city Planning Board must review the plan again and approve the requested expansion.

Saunders said at the same time developers TDB LLC and Vertical Harvest are looking to expand the project: They are looking to “reduce their footprint,” so the building takes up less space and allow for additional sidewalks by the parking area.

The four-story project will include a city-owned free parking garage, a “vertical harvest” indoor farm that will employ upwards of 55 people, first floor retail space, and if approved, 60 apartments on the top of the structure.

“The agreements are being finalized between the parties, but first the farm will open, then the retail and parking, with the residential last,” Saunders said.

Saunders has previously said the project may take upwards of two years to finish.

The city will pay $15 million for the parking garage through an agreement using tax revenue from the project, City Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said, meaning there will be no direct impact on taxpayers. Developers will take on $40 million of the cost and pay for maintenance of the garage, which will continue to be a municipal lot.

Boat launch

The $250,000 boat launch project off Lincoln Street is on track and would should start once funding officially comes in.

Plans call for a new launch, erosion control, parking lot upgrades, lighting and the removal of invasive species through the use of goats.

“We have invasive species like Japanese knotweed and one of the best ways to get rid of them is to have goats come and graze,” Saunders said. “They chew them and pull the roots out, and we have a replanting plan to secure the river bank. If you put pesticide or anything like that next to the river, you run the risk of putting that into the water so that is why we are using goats.”  

The project will come back before the council for final approval of contracts. Half should be funded by block grants, with the other half on the city.

Warren pool 

An update on the Cornelia Warren swimming pool and recreation area was not so promising, as repairs to the pool have been estimated at $1.6 million to $1.8 million, three times $600,000 budgeted to fix the pool and upgrade the park.

Built on a hillside, “the pool has been subject to some shifting, settling, leaking, erosion, and has proven to be more problematic than what we envisioned,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said.

The City Council will look at options at a future meeting, including moving forward with repairs to the rest of the park while they work on finding more affordable options for the pool.

The city had previously proposed installing a splash pad over a pool because of pool costs, but overwhelming support for the pool from residents dashed that idea.

The Cornelia Warren outdoor recreation area so far has $300,000 from local funds as well as another $300,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Saunders said the city is working with the conservation fund to secure more money for the pool, but those grants will not be announced until August.

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