Rock Row (née The Ridge, née Dirigo Plaza) | Westbrook, ME

markhb

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Can anyone clarify the phases? I think they changed at some point where the Cancer Center was Phase 4, but is happening now. Phase 2 was development behind Market Basket, etc etc
I think they reordered without renumbering. Phase I: what's there now, between Main St. and Terminal St.. Phase IV: the Cancer Center and, I believe, the apartments (south of the tracks, east of Rock Row Blvd.) Phase III: the convention center (south of the tracks, west of the Boulevard). Phase II: the cool part everyone cares about, between the Terminal St. driveway and the tracks. Ordering of II and III is still up in the air.
 

mainejeff

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I feel like entertainment/dining/retail should have been configured to be across from the concert/convention center rather than having apartments directly across from it.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Can anyone clarify the phases? I think they changed at some point where the Cancer Center was Phase 4, but is happening now. Phase 2 was development behind Market Basket, etc etc
The phases are more geographical at this point instead of chronological. Phase 1 is the retail portion with Market Basket, etc.. Phase 2 is the more urban marketplace section that will be between Phase 1 and the train tracks, what is currently the large gravel parking lot. Phase 3 is the land between the train tracks and Nasons Brook, which is this residential component (they said this was part of Phase 3 during last night's meeting, so not part of Phase 4 as the map below seems to indicate) and the convention center/amphitheater. Phase 4 is the medical campus between Nasons Brook and the Westbrook Arterial. What is unclear is how the land on the other side of the turnpike off Rand Road they purchased earlier this year comes into play.

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Dr. StrangeHat

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I just watched the public forum zoom meeting. They didn't show much that was new in terms of renderings or plans. I'll post the three screen grabs I took below, but a few takeaways:

(1) I had been losing faith in this development team, thinking this was heading towards suburbia, but the development team seems hyper-focused on achieving this vision.

(2) Light rail is out. They're now focused on trail and express bus options between Portland and Westbrook. Apparently the rail ROW is 90-feet wide, so potentially has room for all three.

(3) I asked them about building up, given that many of the early renderings included high-rises but so far everything built and proposed has been distinctly suburban in nature (retail front, medical campus, recently proposed residential component). They said they've been studying density extensively, but there are a few inhibiting factors:
  • Much of the property is clay, which requires extensive pre-load and pilings to build height.
  • Only the area near the quarry is shallow bedrock and conducive to building up.
  • They're weary of bringing steel into any of the development due to costs, codes, etc. (it just doesn't seem in their comfort zone).
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NR2Portland

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That’s a very optimistic timeline! I hope they can follow through with that but building all of that (or beginning to build all of that) within the next 4 years seems unrealistic. Maybe I’m wrong? 750 housing units, hotels, food halls, a conference center, an office tower, and more in 4 or so years.
 

Portlander

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I'm normally an optimistic individual and have been consistent with my cautious approval of Rock Row and Thompson's Point over the years. However, the actual reality of an 8 story hotel, 10 and 14 story office towers, and a 5000 seat event center are very ambitious in my opinion. The Fidelity Building at 85,000 sf cannot find office tenants and is forced to convert to residential. It is located in a prime downtown location where the masses want to be and the available leasing deals were in the $16-17 per square foot range. Not sure how a developer will be able to fill 400,000 sf of office space (equivilant to 3 One City Centers) at Class A rates overlooking the Maine Turnpike and we can use the UNUM campus as an example of how difficult the task can be. I do think the medical offices, the food hall and the residential elements are viable and you can stick a hotel anywhere near the interstate and it can succeed. My other concern is the positive progress that has been made in downtown Westbrook over the past decade and how this massive retail, dining and entertainment complex will impact it. Hard for me to envision any visitors to Rock Row pausing to a take bus, trolly or train for an excursion into Westbrook's Main Street for sightseeing, shopping or dining. I do love the the quarry walk and the connection to Portland Trails!
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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From what I gleaned during the presentation and Q&A, they seem to have many more tenant agreements in place than they've announced so far.

Pure speculation, but it could be related to this comment from PWMFlyer in the General Discussion thread:

I was just at a luncheon with Roux, a lot is happening since starting up 23 months ago. Tech and bio companies are in talks to open offices here or move here. They are housing lots of students and teachers in hotels due to lack of availability. Lots of growth coming soon, stay tuned...
 
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markhb

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I just watched the public forum zoom meeting. They didn't show much that was new in terms of renderings or plans. I'll post the three screen grabs I took below, but a few takeaways
Did they mention the movie theater at all? Or any word on Cowbell, which is partly constructed (pretty ambitious... they've built a loft in there) but seems to have stalled?

Also, I have to think they have some tenants lined up for the wood-construction office building, or they wouldn't be promoting it so heavily.
 

TC_zoid

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Too bad the event center is only 5,000 seats. Portland seems to be stuck at around this number. Thompsons Point at 5,000 and CIA with 6,000 with today's bigger stage configurations (with no real seating behind). Bangor can host 12,000. What's going on here?
 

Cosakita18

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... The Fidelity Building at 85,000 sf cannot find office tenants and is forced to convert to residential. It is located in a prime downtown location where the masses want to be and the available leasing deals were in the $16-17 per square foot range. Not sure how a developer will be able to fill 400,000 sf of office space (equivilant to 3 One City Centers) at Class A rates overlooking the Maine Turnpike and we can use the UNUM campus as an example of how difficult the task can be....
It's a bit baffling to me that our area is within commuting distance of one of the fastest growing and influential tech and biotech clusters in the world, and we can't capture any of it. The Boston areas has added 10 million + Sq. Ft of lab and research space just in the last few years...and here we are in southern Maine struggling to fill low-rise office buildings. I know geography isn't quite as important in the age of remote work, but our area is definitely lagging economically.

In an area that is nationally known for its high quality of life and proximity to East Coast cities...the state of our economy is a bit depressing...hopelessly overdependent on the service industry and tourism. I guess we can only hope that the Roux Institute will start to change that.
 
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TC_zoid

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It's a bit baffling to me that our area is within commuting distance of one of the fastest growing and influential tech and biotech clusters in the world, and we can't capture any of it. The Boston areas has added 10 million + Sq. Ft of lab and research space just in the last few years...and here we are in southern Maine struggling to fill low-rise office buildings. I know geography isn't quite as important in the age of remote work, but our area is definitely lagging economically.

In an area that is nationally known for its high quality of life and proximity to East Coast cities...the state of our economy is a bit depressing...hopelessly overdependent on the service industry and tourism. I guess we can only hope that the Roux Institute will start to change that.
Agree 100%. USM needs to build a big building to expand its biotech programs. That will help with qualified talent in the area to pull from. Also, I think very few know that Portland is such an easy and short commute to Boston, almost like a suburb, really. It can go the other way too, commuting from Boston to Portland. And the train is comfy and just over 2 hours travel time. I know that there are people who live in Wells that work in Boston. Portland is not that much further. And with a laptop in front of you, that travel time is put to use. You can't use a laptop on a bus. Impossible.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Agree 100%. USM needs to build a big building to expand its biotech programs. That will help with qualified talent in the area to pull from. Also, I think very few know that Portland is such an easy and short commute to Boston, almost like a suburb, really. It can go the other way too, commuting from Boston to Portland. And the train is comfy and just over 2 hours travel time. I know that there are people who live in Wells that work in Boston. Portland is not that much further. And with a laptop in front of you, that travel time is put to use. You can't use a laptop on a bus. Impossible.
I used to commute once a month to our home office in Boston via the Downeaster. I'd usually splurge and get a business class seat, which my company was OK with given that it cost less than reimbursing me the mileage + parking. It was great to be able to get work done in those two hours and not deal with traffic. However, it sucked getting up super early to catch the 5:20am train to get to Boston at a reasonable time. The next train at 8:00 didn't get me into the office until 11:00, which included the time it took to get from North Station via the Green or Orange line. They need to add another southbound train in between those two trains. Maybe even an express train with limited stops.
 

Portcity75

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Downeaster sucks only been on twice but I could bicycle faster. In all my trips to Boston, the one thing I’ve never thought of trying is the commuter rail. Anyone parked at Newburyport and taken it? Seems efficient and reasonable price
 

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