Riverfront Plaza back in business

Maine Medical Center is moving employees into One Riverfront Plaza, which it purchased last June for $10.75 million.

WESTBROOK — Maine Medical Center employees were scheduled to start moving into One Riverfront Plaza this week, several months after the company purchased the long-vacant building.

The first wave of employees was expected to move in Wednesday, according to MMC Communications Manager Caroline Cornish. Up to 500 employees should  be working in the building by mid-April.

The medical center purchased the downtown building, which overlooks the Presumpscot River, in June 2017 for $10.75 million. The office building, vacant since November 2015, will house Maine Med’s integrated Information Services employees along with other administrative functions currently spread across eight office locations throughout greater Portland. Cornish said the employees are moving into the building in phases so services aren’t disrupted.

City officials said they’re excited to have the MMC employees come to Westbrook and frequent the businesses along Main Street, which is accessible from the pedestrian bridge over the river.

“It’s going to put a significant population in the downtown on a daily basis,” said City Administrator Jerre Bryant. “It’ll be very good for the downtown economy.”

The city had been waiting for a large company to move into the building since insurer Disability RMS moved to South Portland in November 2015, taking 350-400 workers away from Westbrook. The promise of more employees coming to the building has done exactly what Bryant and others had hoped for by spurring economic interest in the downtown.

“We’ve received a lot of interest from folks, in part because of the Maine Med announcement,” Bryant said.

In the past year a number of new businesses have located downtown or have announced plans to do so, including The Daily Grind, Quill Books and Beverage, Top Kabob, and Legends Rest Taproom. Bryant said there are still a few vacant spots available downtown and that he hopes they’ll be filled by businesses responding to the influx of Maine Med employees.

Bryant said the city has provided Maine Med with a list of restaurants in the downtown area where they can get lunch or hold meetings or use for catering.

In addition to Maine Med employees having plenty of food and shopping options, Westbrook residents also have more reason to visit their downtown, he said.

“It increases the attraction for businesses to locate in the downtown, which also increases services for residents,” Bryant said. “It’ll make the downtown more vibrant, which is a positive.”

The hope is also to attract more visitors to Westbrook, Bryant added.

The only potential drawback with the addition of up to 500 employees is increased traffic, although Bryant said he’s not concerned.

“We handled the population of Disability RMS for 10 years with no significant issues so I don’t anticipate any problems,” he said.

Offsetting the traffic increase at peak hours is the shift schedule of the Maine Med employees. Bryant said the shifts are spread out instead of being from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and all 500 employees won’t be driving at peak times.

The 134,000-square-foot building, which was built in 2004, was purchased by Maine Med from One Riverfront Plaza Holdings, LLC. The sale of the building to MMC also resulted in the medical center leasing the city-owned parking garage attached to the building. 

The city has valued the building, on 0.85 acres, at $20.55 million, according to city tax records. Those records also show Pendleton Westbrook bought One Riverfront Plaza for $23.5 million in 2005.

The building went to auction in February 2017 after the U.S. National Bank Association filed a foreclosure notice. It was bought back by the bank for $9.2 million. The bank then accepted private bids for the purchase of the building. In the time since Maine Med purchased it, the building has been undergoing internal renovations and reconfiguration. 

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Maine Medical Center is moving employees into One Riverfront Plaza, which it purchased last June for $10.75 million.