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Updated: May 25, 2023

The Downs, marking 5 years, is ready for the next wave of development

Cube3 / M&R Holdings The Downs has a number of projects under construction or set to break ground, including a 30,000-square-foot building that will feature retail and office space. Construction is expected to start in Q3.

Five years ago this winter, Maine's fastest-growing town, 500 acres on the former Scarborough Downs changed hands and started a major redevelopment in the heart of Scarborough. 

The Downs, as it is now known, now has roughly 500 housing units — with another 1,500 planned. It has an Innovation District with more than 50 businesses, and more in the works. 

Much of the development — which was launched by two sets of brothers, the Risbaras and the Michauds — is still ahead. 

On a recent morning, I had the opportunity to get a driving tour with Dan Bacon, development director at M&R Holdings, which is overseeing development of the Downs, and Drew Sigfridson, a principal at the Boulos Co., which is managing commercial leasing and sales at the Downs. 

Here is an overview of what we saw:

Site work on a Costco store is underway. The 163,000-square-foot store is set to open later this year. Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco (NASDAQ: COST)  has 862 warehouse stores worldwide, but right now, the closest store is in Danvers, Mass. 

Cube3 / M&R Holdings
The Downs has more projects underway, including a town center with retail, residential, office and community space.

Work on a Town Center is expected to get underway this year. More than 50 retailers, restaurants and service businesses have expressed interest in going into the site. A community center is also planned. The property manager, M&R Holdings, is looking for a supermarket to anchor retail offerings. 

Allagash Brewing, Maine's largest brewer, plans a tasting room on the Haigis Parkway side of the property. Ground has yet to be broken on the site, but a Q3 start is expected. Landry/French Construction is going to handle the Allagash construction.

Across the street from Allagash, a 30,000-square-foot mixed-use site with office and retail space is planned. Construction on both is expected to start in the third quarter.

IDEXX Laboratories, which is based in Westbrook, has a 160,000-square-foot site under construction on 25 acres in the Innovation District. Cianbro Construction is managing the project. 

And throughout the Downs, housing continues to be built at a rapid pace — at least partially addressing Maine's widespread housing shortage. The Downs has a range of housing, including apartments, condos, townhomes, single-family homes. Prices have started at around $250,000 for condos and hit the high side at $650,000 for single-family homes.

Here's a breakdown on what's already in place, according to M&R Holdings:

  • 77 single-family homes
  • 20 duplexes
  • 122 garden condos
  • 156 apartments
  • 18 townhouses
  • 77 senior units
  • 12 memory-care beds/units

And more is on the way.

Risbara Brothers, a partner in the overall Downs project, is building three buildings with 15 apartments each — a total of 45 units, known as Hackamore North.

American House, a Michigan developer, plans a senior housing complex near the old Scarborough Downs grandstand. Landry/French is expected to handle the construction. Site work is underway.

Elsewhere, 51 units of affordable housing is being built for disabled residents. The developer is 3i HoME, a Topsham-based nonprofit. 

In the Innovation District, an apartment building with 22 studio apartments is under construction. This is an experiment to test the "live-work" aspect of the Downs, seeing whether young professionals who work in the Downs will also live near their work. 

Peter Van Allen
At the Downs in Scarborough, eight houses of 525-square feet are under construction.

And perhaps most interesting, on a wooded side of the residential area of the Downs, M&R Holdings is building eight "tiny homes," 525-square-feet, with 1-bedroom and a loft. They're expected to sell for around $300,000. The tiny home neighborhood has a working title of Simplicity Court. Sigfridson refers to it as a "Woonerf" concept, after the term for Dutch and Belgian compact neighborhoods with tight streets and mostly foot traffic. 

With the housing market the way it is, with Maine's current median sales price of $367,500, there will likely be strong demand for the smaller homes.




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