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March 10, 2021

New England Cancer Specialists will anchor Rock Row medical campus in Westbrook

An artists rendering of a modern brick and glass six-story building with an expansive park-like lawn with trees and a foundtain in front Courtesy / Waterstone Properties A rendering of the planned New England Cancer Specialists building at the Rock Row development in Westbrook.

New England Cancer Specialists will be the anchor tenant at Rock Row's medical and research campus, a significant step for the Westbrook mixed-use development.

Waterstone Properties, Rock Row owner and developer, described the decision of the medical practice to move its offices from Scarborough "one of the most significant achievements" in the progress at Rock Row, a $600 million development.

"NECS is changing the world," said Josh Levy, a founding member of Waterstone, in a news release Wednesday. "They are saving lives and participating in pioneering research that will have lasting impacts for cancer patients and families regionally, and far beyond. They bring meaning and soul to everything we do at Rock Row.”

a white man stands next to a weedy quarry
Photo / Maureen MIlliken
Josh Levy, cofounder of Waterstone Properties Group.

Once it's built out, Rock Row will have retail, office and residential space over 110 acres on the Portland-Westbrook line, including medical and research campus.

NECS will maintain its Topsham, Kennebunk and Portsmouth, N.H., locations, but the Rock Row site will be its flagship, allowing the physician-owned practice to expand research and meet the needs of its growing patient base, NECS officials said. 

The practice will occupy 40,000 square feet in one of two buildings on the six-acre medical and research campus, which is expected to be open by late 2023. About 200,000 square feet at Rock Row will be devoted to medical and research use.

One building on the campus will be for care and research and the second will be for parking and supporting retail products and services. Mark Malone, of Malone Commercial Brokers, represented NECS and will be commercial broker for the medical and research campus, Waterstone's release said.

The Westbrook site was a great opportunity for NECS, Victoria Foley, the practice's director of marketing and communications, told Mainebiz Wednesday morning. "Our physicians were very excited at the opportunity to design a comprehensive center from the ground up, with a focus on a healing environment for our patients," she said.

The owners had been considering a new location for the past few years as they outgrew their space at 100 Campus Drive in Scarborough. "We believe that Rock Row is a convenient location to access, and the development will offer many amenities for our patients to support their treatment and healing," Foley said.

Dr. Chiara Battelli, NECS president, said that the new site will be a place of healing "where state-of-the-art care, clinical research and a holistic approach to health care merge together."

"This contemporary center will allow us to continue offering leading-edge cancer treatments to our patients and participate in research with world-renowned partners who are striving to improve the understanding and treatment of cancer today, and in the future," Battelli said.

A cancer center on the move

New England Cancer Specialists has been on the move, opening the practice in Portsmouth, N.H., last year, and in Central Maine Healthcare's Topsham Care Center in September 2018. NECS officials said that they plan to keep those sites, as well as one in Kennebunk, open.

"Health care is changing," Foley told Mainebiz. "And patient needs during a cancer journey are changing, too. We are committed to developing a center that will meet those needs now, and in the future."

She said that one-stop care, without the hospital system price tag, has drawn more patients to NECS. "And as we serve more people, we want to be sure we are evolving to meet their needs in up-to-date facilities in every community we serve," she said.

The Rock Row location will allow the practice to focus more on cancer research, including furthering collaboration with specialists and researchers domestically and globally, Battelli said.

NECS has a 30-year relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and is one of six New England members of the Dana-Farber Cancer Care Collaborative. NECS expects to serve patients from throughout the Northeast, not only conducting research and providing care, but also complementary care and support services.

NECS is "often the first to offer leading-edge protocols and drug treatments to patients in the region," and participates in more clinical trials than any other cancer care center in Maine, the release said.

An aerial rendering of a complex of buildings, with a highway going by and a large body of water n the middle
Courtesy / Waterstone Properties
A rendering of a completed Rock Row mixed-use development in Westbrook, shows how the quarry on the property is a focus. The medical campus is at the rear.

'A destination for comprehensive care'

While the progress at Rock Row so far has been retail-centered — the anchor 80,000-square-foot Market Basket supermarket opened in August, the first permanent tenant to operate at the site — the overall plan also relies on office space, particularly medical, developers have said from the beginning.

When Rock Row was first announced three years ago, Levy told Mainebiz that medical office tenants would be a key to the project, a growing field that's looking for space. He said innovative tenants from the industry would complement the rest of the development, and there was room enough to set it off in a quiet part, separated by a tree line and stream, away from the hubbub of the retail area.

Developers plan a medical campus that will be "a destination for comprehensive care," today's news release said. Targeted specialties for the space not occupied by NECS are diagnostic imaging, blood labs, physical therapy, nutritionists, family psychologists and other multidisciplinary specialty and primary care practices.

The natural setting, which includes the 400-foot-wide, 300-foot-deep quarry, is part of the development and the medical campus will incorporate it into its design. NECS' space will have patient rooms and treatment clinics that "are being thoughtfully designed to embrace the beautiful and tranquil Maine setting of Rock Row," the release said. 

“Maine is known for its natural beauty and its friendly people," Battelli said. "Our new site at Rock Row will allow us to elevate our advanced cancer research and care by blending it with the healing power of Maine’s beauty.” 

The main building is being designed as bright with natural light and colorful art. "Infusion bays for cancer treatment will feature glass walls to allow patients to bask in the natural beauty of the area while receiving treatment," the release said.

The medical campus will include a healing garden, with manicured walking trails that will connect to the 70-mile-long Portland Trails Network.

Levy said that the core mission of Rock Row is to be a gathering place for people that sparks innovation, celebrates nature and improves lives — "all of which NECS takes to an entirely new level.”

“From your first interaction when you drive into the complex to joyful elements of artwork throughout the campus, this is going to be a special place of caring and discovery for all work visit and work here."

Meet the needs of the community

Waterstone Properties bought the former quarry site in 2017, and the aim was always to "meet the needs of the community," Levy said.

Once completed, Waterstone has said, the development will draw 6 million visitors a year and employ more than 3,500.

Developers announced last summer that a 190-unit residential complex is also in the works and future plans include an 8,000-person-capacity conference center.

Tenants that have been announced so far, aside from NECS and Market Basket, are Firehouse Subs, Big Fin Poke, The Paper Store, Chase bank, Chick-fil-A, a 122-room Element Hotel, a 12-screen Cinemark Theater, Starbucks, a brew and food hall run by Colicchio Consulting.

The site is also home to the Live Nation Maine Savings Music Pavilion, which hosts open-air music concerts. The concerts will move indoors once the conference center is built, Levy has said.

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