2018-07-06 / Front Page

First homes OK’d at Downs

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

The conversion of Scarborough Downs into a mixed-use development of housing and retail that some hope will finally give the town the traditional downtown village area it has long lacked is one step closer to reality, following preliminary approval by the planning board June 25 of the first 30 homes.

Crossroads Holdings completed its purchase the property in January, paying $6.7 million for some 500 acres of the Downs property.

The company is a partnership of William, Marco, and Rocco Risbara of Risbara Bros. Construction, along with Peter and Richard Michaud. A conceptual master plan for Phase 1 of the development of was approved in April.

According to Dan Bacon, a former town planner for Scarborough and now a planning project manager at South Portland engineering firm Gorrill Palmer, the completed first phase will include 56 multi-family apartment units, 24 condominium units and 24 duplex cottage units and a 12- bed memory care facility, in addition to the 30 newly approved single family homes, to be built on 57 acres abutting Route 1 at Enterprise Drive and Sawyer Drive.

The houses are expected to range in size from 1,400 to 2,000 square feet on lots of anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet with shared “neighborhood hub” common areas and “playscapes.”

“It’s going to consist of small lots in a compact neighborhood,” Bacon said. “To compensate and balance we’re going to provide other areas to have some additional space to gather.”

Bacon said the playscapes “will include more natural play areas and not more formal playgrounds and parks.”

Bacon said the developers are in talks with three transit companies to provide service to the area.

The overall plan envisions commercial and light industrial uses in the northern part of the property along Payne Road, near I-95, with a shopping center and offices in the western part of the site and residential uses, to include an assisted-living facility to the east.

The historic harness racing track on the central part of the property will remain up and running for at least two more years and could eventually remain, but will likely include mixed uses, allowing residents of the new homes to easily walk to work, shops, restaurants or entertainment.

About 40 percent of the site is pegged to remain as open space, to include a trail system criss-crossing the property and leading to Oak Hill and to state-owned land managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Town Planner Jay Chase said the town is working with the Scarborough Housing Alliance to create a program for affordable home ownership.

As part of the project, 10 percent of the housing units must be affordable to residents earning at 80 percent of the median household income in the Greater Portland metro area.

“Unlike any other zone in town, affordable housing is not a bonus or this thing you can opt to do, it’s a requirement,” Bacon said, noting that about 6 percent of the units reserved for the affordable rates will be targeted for homes in the first phase that can be owned, with the balance comprised of rental future rental units.

Among the biggest questions raised by the planning board were parking issues. Bacon said each home will include a two-car garage, with on-street parking on Downs Road, which will serve the housing lots.

“That doesn’t allow for graduation parties, Fourth of July parties, things like that,” board alternate Susan Auglis said.

Board member Roger Beeley asked that a parking lot be built for visitors. Bacon said any increase in traffic patterns is not expected to be so great that a stoplight will be required at the intersection where Downs Road meets Route 1.

 news@scarboroughleader.com.

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