Rock Row seeks waivers on zoning limits

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WESTBROOK —  The City Council is considering a contract zone request that Waterstone Properties Group says is necessary to carry out its vision for the Rock Row mixed-use development.

If approved, the contract zone would allow Waterstone to buck current zoning requirements at the former Pike quarry for density, building height, signage, allowable uses and maximum building footprint.

City Planner Jennie Franceschi said the contract zone request blends requirements in the Gateway Commercial zone with those in the City Center District, which encompasses much of downtown.

The Planning Board last week supported the contract zone request and recommended it the City Council. The council’s Committee of the Whole heard an informal presentation about the request Monday. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said first reading could be held April 1, with second reading and final vote April 22.

“This contract zone is important to us to be able to execute this vision,” Josh Levy, principal of Waterstone Properties Group, told the Planning Board last week. 

The “mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly village” would include retail, commercial offices, residences, a movie theater, hotels, a concert venue, parks, food hall, restaurants and other entertainment and recreational offerings.

Two elements of the overall 2.2 million-square-foot master plan have been already been approved: the 495,900-square-foot retail area in the front corner of the property anchored by Market Basket, and a temporary 8,000-person amphitheater by the corner of Larrabee Road and Westbrook Arterial.

If successful with the contract zone request, Levy said he will be back before the Planning Board this summer with the next phase on the project, which includes a 25,000-square-foot food and beer hall, 110-room hotel, 12-screen movie theater, 150 residential units and additional restaurants and retail overlooking a pedestrian plaza. Future phases could include additional retail, commercial and residential uses, as well as a permanent amphitheater, an outdoor park and a medical campus. Full build-out, Levy said, could take another five to seven years.

Jim Katsiaficas, an attorney from Perkins Thompson hired for the project, said the contract zone is needed to increase the number of possible uses on the property to include a car wash, data center, indoor/outdoor amusement park or water park and a transportation facility, things that are not allowed under current zoning.

The contract zone would also allow interior sections of the property to be more densely developed would expand the allowable building height from 50 feet to 150 feet.

Waterstone is also looking to have more signage on the property than the Gateway Commercial zone allows. Katsiaficas said the hope is to have four ground-mounted signs along Main Street, Larrabee Road and Westbrook Arterial and free-standing signs on different lots throughout the property. Signage could also include marquees on the amphitheater and movie theater and tenant signs atop commercial buildings.

He said the signage is “justified given the type of development.”

Waterstone is also proposing a type of signage not see in the city before. Up to 25 digital special events signs around the property would advertise concerts and special events, new products or new vendors. Levy said the signs are common in similar venues across the country.

Committee of the Whole members didn’t have many questions about the contract zone request, but did raise some concerns about safety on the property and the parking plan. They also questioned the demand the development would place on the Westbrook police and fire departments, the impact it would have on downtown and how the developer intends to use and maintain the 26-acre quarry pit.

Levy said he intends to find ways for Rock Row and the downtown to harmonize and will meet with downtown business owners this spring. He would also like to use the rail line that runs through the property to shuttle people back and forth between Rock Row, downtown Westbrook and the transportation center in Portland.

Waterstone will be hire security and use the resources of the city police and fire departments as needed, he said. It has been working with geo-technical and environmental firms, as well as the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, regarding the environmental aspects of the quarry site.

Westbrook Police Capt. Steven Goldberg said the development may mean the department’s patrol beats get reworked and additional staff hired. He said the both the fire and police departments have met with Waterstone throughout the process and will continue to do so. Bryant said if the need for policing at the property increases, Waterstone could work with the city, like the Maine Mall did in South Portland, to fund a full-time police officer dedicated to Rock Row.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

Waterstone Properties Group is seeking waivers on density, building height, uses and signage requirements at Rock Row, a mixed-use urban development at the old Pike quarry.

The developers of Rock Row have a vision for a 2.2 million-square-foot mixed use center on Main Street in Westbrook, but need a contract zone approval from the city to make the vision happen. If successful, the group plans to return to the Planning Board this summer to get permits for the next phase of the ambitious project.

The former Pike quarry on the Westbrook-Portland line, where Waterstone Properties plans a large mixed-use development.

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