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SCARBOROUGH — Martin’s Point Health Care has set its sights on the former Scarborough Commons on U.S. Route 1 for a new health-care center.
The center would likely replace offices at 51 Ocean St. in South Portland.
The preliminary decision comes after neighborhood opposition led the health-care organization in May to withdraw a proposal for a new center at Sawyer and Ocean Streets (Route 77) in South Portland.
Martin’s Point is a Portland-based nonprofit health-care and health-insurance organization that operates in southern Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It employs about 800 people and offers care to more than 75,000 patients.
The company initially wanted the new building to remain in South Portland, according to Dick Daigle, vice president of support services. Daigle in March presented preliminary plans to the South Portland City Council for the three-acre lot at 496 Ocean St., where the city’s Planning and Development Department operates out of the former Hamlin School.
Neighborhood residents opposed to the project cited a strong desire to protect a community garden at the back of the lot, plus the remaining open space around the former school.
Martin’s Point eventually submitted a revised proposal that included compromises and reductions of the project’s proposed footprint.
But within days of submitting the revision, Martin’s Point withdrew the proposal completely, much to the surprise City Manager Jim Gailey, who said the withdrawal was “not at all expected.”
Daigle this week said he approached Richard Aube, the owner of 153 U.S. Route 1, six weeks ago about the possibility of redeveloping the Scarborough parcel, which is across from Lois’ Natural Marketplace and half a mile north of the Maine Medical Partners campus.
The property has been vacant since last September, when an electrical system malfunction sparked a fire that caused $1 million worth of damage to the property. Demolition of the building began last week.
Although the Martin’s Point proposal is still in the concept phase, preliminary discussion has the size of the proposed facility between 15,000 and 18,000 square feet, according to a July 24 press release from Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp.
The lot spans nearly two acres and has been owned by Aube and his wife, Marie, since 1989, according to town tax records. It is valued at nearly $2.09 million.
Daigle said Martin’s Point has agreed “to look at the property and look at our development opportunities. From there, we will enter into a ground lease,” he said Wednesday morning.
The aim is to build a health-care center, but to also determine if the center will include specialty facilities. “We’re working internally on our business plan to identify specifics of what to put there,” Daigle said.
Route 1 between the Maine Medical Partners Campus and the Oak Hill neighborhood has become somewhat of a “medical corridor,” Daigle said, which is part of the appeal for Martin’s Point.
“I believe it’s called the agglomeration effect,” Town Manager Tom Hall said on Tuesday, referring to the theory that clustering businesses in related fields produces economic benefits and economies of scale.
Other health and wellness organizations in the corridor include the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, Maine Health Solutions, and several independent businesses that offer chiropractic care, yoga and hospice care.
The Scarborough Commons parcel also has “high visibility,” Daigle said. All things considered, he added, it is an “ideal location.”
Daigle said Martin’s Point expects to present a preliminary site plan sketch to the Planning Board no sooner than October or November.
Generally speaking, Hall said, having a Martin’s Point health-care center would be “good for the tax base.” The facility will offer “good, high-quality jobs and services that our residents need (and) want,” he said.
Scarborough Commons at 153 U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough was gutted by a three-alarm fire last September. Martin’s Point Health Care now wants to build a new health center on the property, likely to replace a center in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.
Scarborough Commons at 153 U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough was gutted by a three-alarm fire last September. Martin’s Point Health Care wants to build a new health center on the property, likely to replace a center in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.