Historic Scarborough property eyed for affordable housing

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SCARBOROUGH — Avesta Housing wants to bring affordable housing to a historic Route 1 property.

The Portland-based nonprofit hopes to convert the Southgate Farmhouse property into a 50-unit residential complex.

Avesta, founded in 1972, has about 2,000 apartments in Maine, and about 75 developments in southern Maine, President Dana Totman said. About 11 are renovations of historic properties. 

“We like to preserve buildings that really contribute to the town’s character,” Totman said.

The proposal for the three-acre parcel at 577 Route 1 was vetted Wednesday night by town councilors and Planning Board members. The Town Council voted unanimously to move the application to the Planning Board for a site plan review.

Avesta is trying to expedite the process, to get its application to the Maine State Housing Authority by September. 

“The timing of this application is pretty interesting as it relates to the council’s goals,” Town Planner Dan Bacon said, referring to the town’s desire to bring in more affordable housing options, the goal of reviving the Dunstan Corner area, and the effort to attract more historic preservation through a recently-established residential density credit. 

The Historic Preservation Committee last year listed the Southgate House and one of its two barns as two of 48 historic properties to be preserved in Scarborough.  

The brick farmhouse and barns were constructed between 1798 and 1805 by Dr. Robert Southgate, who farmed on the surrounding land and was married to Mary King. King’s brother, William, was Maine’s first governor. 

The house served later as a summer home for the Neal Dow, a famed prohibitionist. It served as a restaurant and was later converted into a seven-unit apartment building, which is how it remains today.  

Avesta’s proposal would preserve all three structures, while converting the house, one of the barns, along with new space, into multi-unit housing totaling 20,000 square feet.

The plan would convert seven of the existing units in the farmhouse into eight affordable studio units, and add 42 units with the construction of a new building behind the house, likely to be connected with one of the barns. A parking lot with an estimated 50-55 spots is also being proposed, along with internal sidewalks and pedestrian areas.

The units will range in size from 350-712 square feet, Totman said. The qualifying income range for residents would be $27,000 to $43,000, Totman said. 

The area offers several points of appeal for an affordable housing cluster, he said, including its proximity (approximately a quarter mile) to the ShuttleBus stop at Dunstan Corner, and the sidewalk access along Route 1 to nearby commercial properties.

The Southgate Farmhouse is in a Town and Village Centers Fringe zone. Avesta is seeking a contract zone for the project in order to exceed the maximum dwelling units per building in the zone, which is currently 12. 

Of the 42 units in the new building, which the application refers to as “smaller and more efficient than typical units,” eight apartments will be “efficiency units,” there will be 29 one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units. 

Other potential modifications rendered with a contract zone include a proposal to build a fourth floor at the rear of the building, between 37 and 45 feet tall. The zone allows a maximum of three stories.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve seen and heard, and I hope this moves forward,” Councilor Shawn Babine said. 

Council Chairwoman Jessica Holbrooke said she “can’t imagine why I wouldn’t support it.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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Avesta Housing wants to convert the Southgate House in Scarborough into a 50-unit affordable housing complex. 

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.