A large turnout attends a parking forum Aug. 22 at Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church. Robert Lowell/American Journal

Public opposition to Westbrook’s plans to build on three free parking lots downtown is heating up, with those opposed citing a potentially negative impact on downtown businesses, visitors and churchgoers.

The city wants affordable housing with mixed-use commercial space built on a municipal parking lot between two downtown banks on Main Street and at two city-owned lots on Church Street.

The issue packed a public forum organized by resident and lawyer Andrew Broaddus last week at the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church, which would be severely impacted if the nearby Church Street lots are eliminated, the pastor says.

The loss of parking would be a “game changer” for the church that hosts two congregations and multiple community events, including the annual Festival of Trees, dance and exercise classes, AA meetings, bean suppers and a free Christmas dinner, said the Rev. Leslie Foley.

A sign posted outside the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church on Main Street. Robert Lowell/American Journal

“The development of the Church Street parking lot would forever change the way Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church serves the communities. I think I speak for all of the congregation when I say it is our sincere hope that Westbrook leaders will reconsider development of the Church Street parking lot,” Foley told the American Journal.

Former Mayor Mike Sanphy told those gathered Aug. 22 that “there’s no reason to take these parking lots out. These lots were put here for a reason.”


Broaddus, who paid for signs announcing the forum and is rallying opposition with plans for two additional forums in September, said the free lots were put in place by urban renewal several decades ago and eliminating them is “an outrage.”

Plans to develop the lots are not new. They stem from the 1999 Downtown Revitalization Study that was refined in 2007, according to Mayor Michael Foley.

“These plans specifically call for this type of proposed development to restore downtown activity following the negative effects of urban renewal,” he told the American Journal this week.

Former Westbrook Mayor Mike Sanphy and resident Andrew Broaddus confer last week at the parking lot forum organized by Broaddus. Robert Lowell/American Journal

The city has received four responses to its requests for proposals sent out in April, he said, including one from the Westbrook Housing Authority. City Council approval would be required for any projects.

“We are working on putting together all the information from the RFPs with FAQs that will be posted on the city’s website,” the mayor said.

A four-story parking garage is under construction in the former Mechanic Street parking lot next to the Vertical Harvest project and will open this fall, he said.


In an Aug. 17, 2022, article in the American Journal, Foley said the addition of the parking garage would allow for development at city parking lots, including the lot between TD Bank and Bank of America.

“We are finally seeing some of this planning come to fruition,” he said this week. “Now that we have invested in a parking garage, which will be free to users, we will have a significant abundance of parking in the downtown and with the housing shortage on our hands, the investment of affordable housing downtown and mixed-use commercial will help to support downtown businesses while also increase housing opportunities.”

Broaddus says downtown businesses won’t be supported, they will be hurt. In an Opinion column in the American Journal earlier this month, he said the free parking lots are a draw for Westbrook and businesses depend on them.

“The restaurants are going to get creamed,” he said at the forum.

Daily Grind coffee shop owner Joe Salisbury said more downtown construction following the Vertical Harvest and parking garage projects that shut down Main Street through-traffic for weeks could “doom” his business. He urged residents at the forum to contact their city councilors.

Roger Barr, a lifelong resident, uses handicapped spaces in the municipal lots. “I couldn’t go to the parking garage,” he said, because he needs to be closer to his bank and other businesses he needs to visit.

Former City Councilor John O’Hara suggested a development plan could compromise on parking. He supports the parking garage, however, because he said that people in their 20s look for one.

At the Westbrook-Warren church, discussions are already under way about the future of the popular Tips for Charity luncheon that benefits the Westbrook Pantry during the Festival of Trees in December.

“We did enjoy two packed sittings, but we wonder if we will be able to even have one sitting this year because of the huge problem of space now in the adjacent parking lot. It is indeed such an enormous problem,” Roberta Morrill said. “We will discuss this situation at our next meeting.”

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