Town Learns from Past Redevelopment Mistakes that Eminent Domain Just Isn’t Worth the Trouble
In November 2000, the Westbrook City Council approved the Riverfront Master Plan, a multimillion-dollar effort to revitalize the Presumpscot River waterfront by building a riverfront boardwalk and pedestrian river crossings.1 City officials stated clearly that they do not intend to use eminent domain as part of the redevelopment, which comes as a relief to many small business owners in the area. During the 1960s and 1970s, the City undertook a disastrous urban renewal plan using public funds to raze many old, historic downtown structures, with the goal of replacing them with commercial complexes designed to compete with suburban shopping centers. However, the primary result of the earlier plan was that nothing ever got built, leaving many vacant lots and shuttered businesses. The plan totally destroyed central Westbrook’s retail and residential fabric.2 This time around, the City plans to work together with local property owners to transform the waterfront, rather than move them out of the way as it did in the past.
1 C. Kalimah Redd, “Westbrook Approves Plan for Riverfront,” Portland Press Herald, Oct. 24, 2000, at 2B.
2 Tom Bell, “Plan to Remake Westbrook Met with Suspicion, Hostility; Critics Remember When the Downtown Was Torn Apart by Urban Renewal,” Portland Press Herald, June 27, 2000, at 1B.