Developer Proposes Replacing Westbrook Outlets with Five-Story Housing, Retail, Restaurants and Hotel

Westbrook Commons Main St. (Courtesy of Lexington Partners)


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WESTBROOK — A Hartford developer plans to construct sprawling five-story mixed-use development with a 100-room hotel, retail shops and restaurants where the Westbrook Outlets and cinema currently stand.

The project, known as Westbrook Commons, would be built in two phases, totaling 595 multifamily residential units, 100 condominium townhouses, 74,000 square feet of retail space, an “amenity” occupying 14,400 square feet, the hotel and a potential 1,000-seat amphitheater, according to a presentation by Lexington Partners LLC, a real estate development firm, in its pre-application review before the Zoning Commission on Monday.

The 49.7-acre property at 314 Flat Rock Place is located in Westbrook’s Turnpike Interchange Zone, one of the town’s commercial districts, and sits between Interstate 95 and the northeast rail corridor. 

“It is one of our principal commercial zoning districts in town,” Westbrook Town Planner Peter Gillespie told CT Examiner on  Wednesday. 

The site is about a mile from the Westbrook rail station and is described as “transit-oriented development” in Lexington Partners’ presentation materials.  

Westbrook Commons concept (Courtesy of Lexington Partners).

Gillespie said the developer must apply for several zoning changes before the project can proceed, including increasing the allowable building height from 50 to 60 feet and changing the parking requirements. 

He said Westbrook Outlets, consisting of four buildings and a cinema that would be demolished, uses a community septic system, and that the town does not have public sewers.

“They are going to obviously have to upgrade and improve the system that’s there now to accommodate this development,” Gillespie said. Public water is provided by Connecticut Water.

Regarding the potential increase in tax revenue that the development could generate, Gillespie said an analysis would be done when the plans were further along. 

“But obviously, [with] the scale of this development, the taxes generated will be significantly more than what we presently receive from the property owner. But I don’t have a specific accurate handle on that at this point, but it is part of our ongoing conversations with the developer,” he said. 

Gillespie also said the “subject has been raised” about a potential tax abatement for the project, but that the plans are still conceptual and subject to revision, and that permitting was taking priority.

“They’re going through a permitting process with the state DEEP for the community septic, and that will be pretty critical in terms of what the final development plan looks like. So we have not gotten into either one of those areas of conversation, but it is something that I’m sure we will discuss and we’ll see what comes out,” he said. 

On affordable housing, Gillespie said the town has started the conversation with the developer, but added that the commercial zone does not currently allow affordable housing. 

“The town has an interest in having some affordable housing developed as part of the project. We have not worked up those details,” he said. “The zone that they’re in does not mandate affordable housing. … We have encouraged them to consider a portion of the development to be set aside for affordable housing, so hopefully that will happen and we will be continuing to ask for that.”

Westbrook Commons aerial view (Courtesy of Lexington Partners).

The next steps include applying to revise zoning regulations, acquiring the needed permits and submitting a project application to the Zoning Commission.

“I think 2024 is going to be busy with all of that activity. But we were excited about the project and we look forward to working with their development team and the developer to address some of these issues and move the project a little further along,” Gillespie said. 

Lexington Partners is scheduled to present the project to the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission on Feb. 6.

According to its website, Lexington Partners operates 2,344 apartments and is in the process of constructing three multifamily projects totaling 435 units. The company states it has also constructed office, industrial and retail spaces, as well as parking garages. 

Lexington Partners did not respond to a request for comment on the project’s cost and amenity space.