November 24, 2010

Innovative Scarborough development grows on people

Despite a stuttering economy and civic opposition to his plans, the developer of Dunstan Crossing in Scarborough persevered with his proposal for an innovative model of 21st-century suburban development.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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New and existing housing units are reflected in a pond at Dunstan Crossing in Scarborough. It s a viable alternative for people who want to live in a place that integrates housing density, open space and a walkable community, but don't want to live downtown, one expert said.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Developer Elliott Chamberlain talks about his progress on Dunstan Crossing. It was cut from 445 homes to 288 after he successfully argued in court that Scarborough hadn’t followed its own comprehensive plan.

Additional Photos Below

ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT

Dunstan Crossing has gone through many changes since it was first proposed in 2002. Initially, it was to have 121 single-family homes, 185 condo units, 84 deed-restricted homes for seniors, 55 apartments and 55,000 square feet of commercial space. A community center, two miles of trails and a ballfield also were proposed.

The plan was modified over time, influenced by a citizen-initiated referendum and a lawsuit. Today, it includes 288 homes, of which 125 are single-family, as well as commercial space. The zoning and certain agreements with the developer provide flexibility to add units, and mix homes and commercial development, depending on market demand.

"Look at what we've done in one of the worst economic downturns," he said.

Chamberlain's perseverance benefited Scarborough, said Dan Bacon, the town planner, by providing a model for future projects that embrace smart growth principles.

In the Oak Hill area, a 180-unit traditional neighborhood development called Eastern Village is under construction, featuring mixed housing, walking trails and energy-efficient design.

In time, Bacon said, Dunstan Crossing's commercial expansion may help support a supermarket and other retail services along that stretch of Route 1, forming a service center that's reachable on foot and bike.

Building homes close to businesses and public transportation routes is a priority for GrowSmart Maine, the Portland-based planning organization. The group is encouraging housing developments that reuse downtown buildings, such as the new Mill at Saco Falls project, in a renovated mill complex in Biddeford.

But not everyone wants to live downtown. As a suburban alternative, Dunstan Crossing has done a good job of integrating housing density, open space and a walkable community, said Nancy Smith, GrowSmart Maine's executive director.

"They were out front when they started this, and that's a gamble," said Smith, who recently visited the project.

In the last two years, national events have combined to give an unexpected boost to Dunstan Crossing. The recession stunted overall home sales, but it also put the brakes on Hummer homes. With a variety of houses smaller than 2,500 square feet, Chamberlain has a product that's in step with the times.

An aging population and the specter of another energy price shock also are raising the project's profile in the market.

Sandra Murray and her husband own All Points Realtors in Scarborough, as well as a high-end modular construction company. Two miles from Dunstan Crossing, they're developing Sea Ridge, a 56-home conservation subdivision, in which construction is concentrated to preserve open space.

Some buyers who explore Sea Ridge have looked at Dunstan Crossing, Murray said, and don't like the idea of mixed housing, close together.

"But it's definitely a unique product, and it's causing people to consider options," she said. "It's causing people to say, 'Should I consider that?'"

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: tturkel@pressherald.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Lynne Beal and her husband moved to a townhouse in Dunstan Crossing last year, after retiring here from Cape Elizabeth. She said that living in the condos, set amid single-family homes full of kids riding bikes, reminds her of her Bangor childhood.

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