Westbrook officials are working to fix traffic and parking disruptions anticipated downtown when work on the Vertical Harvest building, expected to last for two years, begins next month

Parking spaces will be relocated, Main Street traffic will be intermittently impacted and side streets around the project, often used by trucks supplying local businesses, will be closed at times.

Traffic and parking announcements will come in the next few weeks, Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said. Eighty parking spaces will be available at Saccarappa Park, likely for the duration of the construction.

The first step in the project will be digging 50- to 60-foot holes for support beams for the 300,000-square-foot building, which will house a vertical hydroponic farm, retail space, a parking garage and residential units, according to developer Greg Day with TDB.

Construction on the $60 million project on what is now a 100-space municipal parking lot at Mechanic and Main streets can then start in earnest, with completion slated for 2023.

The parking lot will obviously be closed, that’s the big thing,” he said. “The city is coordinating to create substitute parking, but the whole site will be fenced off and you will see equipment out there,” Day said.

Approved by the Planning Board a year ago, the project to be built between Main Street and William Clarke Drive includes the 70,000-square-foot Vertical Harvest farm, which is expected to grow upwards of 1 million pounds of produce per year, with the first crop of microgreens expected one month after the farm’s completion.

The farm already has deals with Native Maine and Hannaford to distribute their produce, giving them a “nice customer base to open within 2023,” Day said.

“Together, Vertical Harvest and Hannaford can further offer access to fresh, nutritious, high quality, local greens year-round,” Mark Jewell, Hannaford’s produce category manager, told the American Journal in an email. “We look forward to the potential this may have throughout the other states in which we do business.”

Retail space is planned for the other side of the four-story building, Day said, to be filled ideally with a “boutique” store that offers both groceries and hot food.

“We are certainly talking to specific companies about this space, but the space itself won’t be ready until 2023,” he said.

Connecting the Harvest and retail space will be a municipal parking garage with about 400 free spaces. The city will own the lot, but it will be operated by the developers.

The city will pay $15 million for the parking garage through an agreement using tax revenue from the project, Stevenson said, meaning there will be no direct impact on taxpayers.

Sixty apartments also are planned for the upper floors of the building above the garage. The residences are the final phase of the project and Day said details are still being ironed out. He expects to have more details available by the end of this year.

Stevenson said tax revenue from the project, fresh produce, parking and new housing and retail moving into the city are the obvious benefits of the project for the city. He also hopes the project will spark the expansion of other downtown businesses, such as CVS, to make Westbrook more of a “24-hour” downtown.”

“We are taking a surface lot that doesn’t generate taxes and is underutilized, and we put all these components with free public parking,” Stevenson said. “The entire project is really coming together well.”


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