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November 15, 2022

FAME approves $93M in bonds to finance Rock Row infrastructure project

aerial rendering of buildings and lake FILE IMAGE Rock Row, shown here in a rendering, was approved for bond financing of up to $93 million toward public infrastructure costs through FAME.
Rock Row is a 110-acre, $600-million development with 2 million square feet of office, retail, health care and residential space. Tenants include Market Basket, REI, Chase, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Firehouse Subs, Big Fin Poke, the Paper Store, Cowbell Burger, U.S. Cellular and Crumbl Cookies. 
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New bond financing of up to $93 million will fund public infrastructure work at Rock Row in Westbrook and Portland. 

Finance Authority of Maine this week approved the financing for Dirigo Center Developers LLC, a subsidiary of Waterstone Properties Group Inc., which is developing Rock Row. 

The improvements will include roads, utility upgrades, public equipment acquisition, recreational trails and a parking garage to support additional development on the property. 

The round includes $14.7 million to refinance bonds that FAME previously authorized in 2018.

The project is expected to expand and diversify the city of Westbrook’s tax base, create new jobs and significantly impact regional economic development, according to a news release.

Waterstone is developing a large, phased, multi-use development at the site of a former quarry in Westbrook, known as Rock Row. As part of the project, Waterstone committed to undertaking several public infrastructure improvements, both on the former quarry site and on other public lands, including upgrades to public street intersections and two Maine Turnpike Authority exits. 

The first phase of the multi-use development helped create up to 280 construction jobs, as well as an additional 813 permanent jobs related to the tenants of the development.

“The project is expected to provide important public infrastructure improvements to the area that will facilitate additional commercial development, hopefully leading to increased employment and property tax revenue,” said David Daigler, FAME’s board chair. 

At full build-out, an economic impact analysis projects that Rock Row will add over 8,000 jobs, equating to $452 million in wages, adding over $35 million in state tax revenue annually. Projected property taxes could also add up to $9 million in tax revenues for the cities of Westbrook and Portland. 

Josh Levy, co-founder and principal of Waterstone, credited partnerships with groups like FAME and others at the state, local and community level as key to carrying out the large development.

The financing came through FAME’s revenue obligations securities program, which provides tax-exempt bond financing to eligible borrowers without any recourse or obligation on the part of the state. The bonds carry no liability or credit enhancement on the part of FAME or the state. FAME acts as a conduit for borrowers to allow them to access favorable interest rates and to help stimulate the economy and create and retain Maine jobs.

Such bonding is commonly referred to as “conduit bonds” due to their pass-through nature. They are authorized by the Internal Revenue Code in order to stimulate economic development in targeted industries. In recent years, projects financed through FAME, a quasi-independent state agency, range from not-for-profit health and higher education projects to solid waste improvements, public infrastructure and manufacturing.

Rock Row is a 110-acre, $600-million development with more than 2 million square feet of mixed-use office, retail, health care and residential space. The project is being built around a 26-acre quarry. Rock Row is expected to attract more than 6 million visitors a year when complete.

Waterstone purchased the site in 2017 and master-planned the project in five phases. The first phase was completed in the spring of 2021, where Rock row is now 98% leased with tenants that include Market Basket supermarket, REI, Firehouse Subs, Big Fin Poke, the Paper Store, Chase, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Cowbell Burger, U.S. Cellular and Crumbl Cookies. 

The groundbreaking for the subsequent phase occurred in September. It  includes a 200,000-square-foot medical campus anchored by renowned New England Cancer Specialists, an affiliate of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 

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