ABOUT WESTBROOK COMMON
The Westbrook Common is one of the most visible, centrally-located properties in the downtown.
Considering these assets, the Common has great potential to become a vital public space activated by adjacent businesses and community activities and events.
Originally envisioned by the 1971 Urban Renewal Plan to be a lively plaza, the Common has to date, experienced a disappointing level of pedestrian activity - likely a response to the lack of commercial density and variety needed to make the downtown and the mall a destination. Now nearing 50 years old. The Westbrook Common is rundown and difficult to maintain.
Today, downtown Westbrook is experiencing an exciting revitalization period, and there is no better time to envision a transformation of the Westbrook Common into a vibrant public space. Please join the community initiative to PLAN THE COMMON in Downtown Westbrook.
How Urban Renewal Shaped the Downtown
Between 1971 and 1981, the Westbrook Urban Renewal Authority oversaw the Westbrook Downtown Project Number One Me-27, a $5 million urban renewal effort covering nearly 26 acres within the City’s downtown.
The intent was in line with many current urban design objectives. The 1971 Planning Board authorization noted that the plan was “designed with the general purpose of accomplishing a coordinated and harmonious development of the City which will promote the health and the general welfare of the proposed renewal area and the community as a whole.” In fact, many of the accomplishments - modernizing the sewer system, burying utility lines, rebuilding Main Street, integrating pedestrian and public space - were positive and continue to benefit the Downtown today.
Other changes, however, effectively robbed the downtown of those very characteristics that make traditional city centers vibrant and unique: density, architectural character, walkability, and commercial variety. The renewal effort removed 27 buildings, many dating back to the late 19th Century; it interrupted the street grid and city blocks by discontinuing side streets; it removed on-street parking and added expansive off-street parking lots; it displaced small local businesses; and finally, it altered the scale, character, and density of the downtown built environment.
Today, according to one local official, “everything old is gone” in the downtown. Public infrastructure projects like PLAN THE COMMON help to stimulate the private investment needed for revitalization.
Revitalization Efforts Today
Recently the City has constructed the Riverwalk around the Presumpscot Riverfront and installed a new pedestrian bridge over Saccarappa Falls. The Dana Warp Mill was recently purchased for redevelopment, and Maine Med plans to bring up to 500 employees to new offices at One Riverfront Plaza. New small businesses, restaurants and retail shops have opened, including the Daily Grind, Top Kabob, Legends Best Taproom, and Quill Books and Beverage. Presumpscot Stage has come to town.
Other redevelopment projects are planned, including the Rock Row development - part of a large scale mixed use project with housing, recreation, offices, a hotel, restaurants, and retail.
Enhancing this progress, downtown-centric investments and activities by the City and local organizations are helping to support businesses and restore a sense of community. Organizations like the Downtown Westbrook Coalition, the Maine Center for Creativity, and Westbrook Arts and Culture have used public art and community events to infuse a sense of vibrancy, solidarity, and place-making. The groups have brought programs and people to Westbrook Common - events like the Holiday Pop Up Market, Art All Around, the Edible Main Street Project, and Wessie Fest.
The City is setting the stage for economic revitalization with investment in public infrastructure like the Westbrook Common, traffic calming and streetscape improvements, and initiatives, such as the facade program. In the words of the City’s Economic Development Director, “It’s all coming together in the City of Westbrook as the municipality and private sector push forward on a path of significant investment and sustainable growth.”