Housing at The Downs gets first nod from Scarborough planners

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SCARBOROUGH — The first housing development at Scarborough Downs has been granted preliminary approval by the Planning Board, two months after a master plan for the 500-acre property passed muster.

The first phase of development approved Monday will include 30 single-family homes on 57 southern acres that abut Route 1, Enterprise Drive and Sawyer Drive. The houses are proposed to be 1,400 to 2,000 square feet on lots that range from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet.

The project will come before the board again for final approval, pending permits from the Department of Environmental Protection.

The new housing is part of a mixed-use community developers envision will include retailers and green space. Cross Roads Holdings, a limited liability corporation created by developers William, Marco and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros. Construction Co., and Peter and Richard Michaud, purchased the property in January for $6.7 million.

Ten percent of the residences proposed on the property must be deemed affordable, at 80 percent of the median household income in the greater Portland area, per the town’s standards. Town Planner Jay Chase said the town has a solid program for affordable rental units for qualifying families, but is now working with the Scarborough Housing Alliance to create a program for affordable home ownership.

Parking for the development was a concern raised by several board members, but each home will include a two-car garage, according to Bacon, and there will be on-street parking on Downs Road, which will lead to the development. Chairman Roger Beeley suggested a parking lot should be built for visitors.

Planning Board member Susan Auglis said she is excited about the project and envisions it will be a success.

Dan Bacon, a planning project manager with the Gorrill Palmer engineering and planning firm hired by Crossroads Holdings, said Phase 1 in its entirety includes 56 multi-family apartments, 24 condominiums, 24 duplexes, 30 single-family homes and a memory care facility. The condominiums and the memory care facility and the apartment complexes will be discussed in more detail at a later date, Bacon said. A trail system to Oak Hill and other parts of the property are being discussed, as well as trails connecting to state-owned land managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Bacon said the area is also being considered as a transit hub, and the developer is in talks with three transit companies to provide service to the area.

The area will also include common spaces, with natural playscapes features such as logs and boulders, and a fire pit for communal gatherings.

The property now includes a harness racing track, a grandstand and outlying barns. Scarborough Downs will host races for at about two more years.

Crossroads Holdings has said it expects to invest more than three times the purchase price, making infrastructure improvements to prepare the land for development.

The northern section, along Payne Road, is eyed for commercial and industrial activity due to its proximity to the Maine Turnpike and other commercial activity along Payne Road, Bacon previously said.

The central area, where the race track is operating now, is designated for mixed use. The track may be retained or retrofitted and will remain a focal point of the property, Bacon said.

According to plans, a shopping center and office campus could be constructed in the western portion of the property.

The eastern area, where the stables are located, would be residential and could also include an assisted living facility.

Bacon said previous market trends show that nationally, a suburban location with urban amenities is the most desirable development. What is envisioned at Scarborough Downs mimics that ideal, with residents able to walk to work, a coffee shop, or to entertainment.

There is strong competition in surrounding communities, so the Scarborough Downs property must create a unique environment, Bacon said, but added the focus of the project will likely change over time to line up with market forces.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka

Rocco Risbara III, the developer of the Scarborough Downs property, stands before the Planning Board on June 25 next to plans for the initial phase of the Crossroads Holdings project, which is focused on housing.

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