And they're off: Sale of Scarborough Downs is official

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SCARBOROUGH — Local developers have completed their purchase of the 500-acre Scarborough Downs property for nearly $7 million. 

The property was acquired last week by two sets of brothers – William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros. Construction Co., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors – doing business as Crossroads Holdings LLC.

It was announced in October the property was under contract. 

Scarborough Downs will host harness racing for at least two more years while the new owners solidify their plans for the property. Crossroads Holdings expects to invest more than three times the purchase price, making infrastructure improvements to prepare the land for development, according to the group. 

“This is a defining moment in Scarborough’s history,” Rocco Risbara III in a  Jan. 8 press release. “We look forward to creating something that brings people together, creates economic growth and builds a sense of hometown pride.”

The owners anticipate a 15- to 30-year build-out, Risbara told the town’s Long Range Planning Committee at a meeting in early December. 

In the short term, a two-year lease will be signed with the Downs’ current owner, Sharon Terry. The arrangement will preserve 60 or more jobs at the track, Risbara said.

The development group is eyeing about 300 acres for development, but what is envisioned isn’t yet clear. There is potential for a mixed-use area, including retail, residential and commercial lots. 

The next public meeting with the Planning Board was slated for Jan. 8 and the planning process will continue through the spring.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done, and we’re proud of this town,” Risbara said in December. “We recognize (the Downs is) a pretty unique site, and when we realized it was available, we put a team together to go after it.”

In a letter to the board, project engineer Dan Bacon, of South Portland-based Gorrill Palmer, said “This ownership group knows development; understands business and market demand; are local, and are committed to this project for the long term.”

Bacon, who is Scarborough’s former planning director, said, “It’s a great mix of disciplines Rocky’s put together, and for a project like this, it takes all those different ideas and talents.”

A spokeswoman for the developers, Diana Nelson, said, “What we want to get across is, we really want to do it right. People have been waiting a decade and don’t want to see another strip mall or box store. We’re listening, and have the right people at the table.”

Jay Chase, the town’s planning director, said the Downs property is in the crossroads district, and the purpose of the district is to foster collaboration between the town and developer, although 10 percent of the residences built on the property must be affordable housing.

Risbara said the project’s focus will likely change over time in line with market forces.

“We want to build something people want,” he said, adding there will be a state of flux with what is popular, whether it be retail or residential property, during the years the project will span.

A conceptual infrastructure plan, as described by Bacon, will also include plans for green space and natural areas. Open land may be a draw for potential residents and businesses, he said, in a development that includes mixed-use lots, residential and commercial areas.

It allows flexibility and the potential for a “community within the community,” Bacon said.

Zoning on this property allows for a wide range of uses, including the creation of a town center, mixed housing, active recreation and entertainment, as well as retail, commercial and industrial opportunities – all options that are being discussed, according to the Crossroads Holdings announcement. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext., 106 or via email at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. 

The grandstand at Scarborough Downs in December. The 500-acre property was officially purchased this month for $6.7 million by a group of Scarborough developers, collectively known as CrossRoads Holdings LLC.

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