City officials comb proposed retail project plans

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Westbrook officials have begun to carefully look at the site plan for Dirigo Plaza, a 500,000-square-foot retail development destined for the Pike Industries gravel pit off Main Street.

Pages of plans, which include details on landscaping, lighting, parking, entrances, drainage and more, were dropped off at Westbrook City Hall last week. City planning and engineering officials will now review the documents and return them with comments to J&J Gove Development, the company behind the project.

Although the project could have big implications for the city’s eastern gateway, the Westbrook Planning Board warmed to the plans during a sketch plan workshop in November. Board members praised the addition of pedestrian-friendly elements such as pond-view walkways and streetscape enhancements along Main Street.

The official site plans are expected to go in front of the Planning Board on Tuesday, March 1. Due to the size of the project, the board will most likely split up the discussion to separate meetings, first tackling site aesthetics like landscaping and lighting, then moving on to drainage and traffic.

The parcel has been used as a quarry since at least the 1940s, featuring a gravel pit that is 350 feet deep. The development team has a purchase and sale agreement with Pike in place, pending the necessary permitting required to move ahead with the project.

Jeffrey Gove, of J&J Gove Development, said this week that the plans are largely the same as what was presented to the board in November. He said a lot of work is left to be done, and come construction time, the site will need a large amount of improvements.

Developers refer to the design as having a north and south campus, separated by railroad tracks. Gove has declined to disclose any potential tenants for the development, and on Tuesday, Gove said he has confidentiality agreements with a few of the tenants.

However, on the southern side, the plan calls for one large retail building and a fueling station. The initial plans referred to this site as a potential wholesale club, and Gove has said if the retailer is approved, it would be the company’s first location in Maine – adding to speculation that it could be Costco.

Gove said he is working with national, regional, and a few local, “specialized” retailers.

Last week, Director of Public Services Eric Dudley said he’d be reviewing the extensive plans this week. Although the Planning Board meeting is still a few weeks away, he said it takes time for the city departments to review the plans and send critiques back to Gove’s team.

Gove said he’s confident going into the Planning Board process, especially following the initial meeting. He said at the same time the project is vetted by the city, the project will also be moving through the approval process with both the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Transportation.

“We’re doing them all simultaneously,” he said.

Planning officials were supportive of potential community draws included in the project. The large gravel pit will be allowed to fill with water, and the design calls for a walking path to traverse the pond. Developers said the site could eventually host fishing derbies and other outdoor events.

“I love the idea of having recreation there,” said board member Robin Tannenbaum during the last meeting.

A previous traffic study predicted a large uptick in traffic caused by the retail center, and traffic improvements to the area are being explored, including in nearby Portland.

Gove said that if all goes as planned, he hopes construction could begin this summer.

The site plan for a 500,000-square-foot retail development has been officially submitted to Westbrook planning officials. The land is being sold by Pike Industries to a developer, who plans to turn the large gravel pit into a pond. 

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