A side view of the reconfigured Vertical Harvest complex, showing apartments on the right side of the municipal parking garage as opposed to on top of it. Contributed / City of Westbrook

The design of the municipal parking garage that is a part of the Vertical Harvest project off Mechanic and Main streets in downtown Westbrook has been revamped to cut costs.

The planned residential portion of the project has been moved from above the parking garage to next to it, above the retail space. The number of apartments has been scaled back from 60 apartments to 50-55.

“The project is almost the same, we just slid the housing to the east end,” City Project Manager Robyn Saunders said at a Tuesday Planning Board meeting. “It’ll be four or five stories of housing on top of the retail.”

Previous plans called for six stories, with up to two stories of housing on top of the garage.

The 425space parking garage will have a concrete frame rather than the steel frame initially proposed, a switch that will save upward of $5 million along with the moving of the apartments, according to City Administrator Jerre Bryant.

The Vertical Harvest hydroponic farm portion of the project remains unchanged.


Construction had been scheduled to start in October but was delayed through January because of rising costs.

The city will contribute $15 million for the garage, but through an agreement with the developer, future tax revenue from the project will be used to cover that cost, City Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson previously said. The developers will pay for maintenance of the garage, which will continue to be a municipal lot, and cover the $40 million balance of the total project.

Final designs for the residential part of the project are still being worked out. Community Housing of Maine will work in collaboration with developers, and some of the units will be offered at affordable housing rates.

A rendering of the Vertical Harvest project as viewed coming into downtown from Gorham. Contributed / City of Westbrook

Planning Board members Tuesday supported the project, but a few said they preferred the old design.

“It was always a desire of the board to go up, and this is one of the projects that will help that process,” board member Ed Reidman said.

Chairperson Rene Daniel agreed but was disappointed about the plan for fewer apartments.


“We have come a long stride. I’ve heard Ed say so often that we need to go up in downtown, and I believe fervently that is what we need to do,” Daniel said. “For us to make downtown a viable financial model, we need to bring life to downtown. I am very disheartened to hear the amount of apartments.”

Member Robin Tannenbaum said she liked the original design with apartments on top of the garage, too, but that she looks forward to seeing a fleshed-out redesign.

“It’s great that you are saving millions with the design, but to be brutally honest this design lacks the magic of the original,” member Jason Frazier said. “The garage needs something vertical to break it up. Vines would be great.”

Member Nancy Litrocapes also said she’d like to see more greenery or art added to break up the look.

“It’s amazing how different this looks,” she said. “I know you are trying hard to make savings. I have always liked the idea of vines or greenery to bring the natural element.”

Saunders said adding greenery or vines to parking garages is difficult in the North because much of the time they will be brown.

“You don’t get the green you want when you picture growing ivy, that’s what our consultant said,” Saunders said.

Once the housing design is finalized, it will be brought to the Planning Board for approval. A Planning Board public hearing and vote on this new design will be held June 7.

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