May 11, 2012

Town hopes newcomer ignites growth on Haigis

An equipment supplier is coming to the dormant parkway area, and officials might loosen the zoning.

By GILLIAN GRAHAM Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH - Town officials are hoping a new development on Haigis Parkway could spark more interest in the long-vacant stretch between the Maine Turnpike and Route 1.

An electrical equipment distribution company plans to build a 15,400-square-foot building on the parkway, a plan town officials say could be the start of further development of about 300 acres of privately owned land along the road.

To spur development, the Town Council is considering whether to loosen zoning along the 1.5-mile road that connects Route 1 and Payne Road near turnpike Exit 42.

Horizon Solutions, which distributes electrical and mechanical equipment from locations in four states, will relocate its headquarters from Portland to the parkway by the end of the year. The project will be the first development in the area since the 2008 arrival of Cabela's on Payne Road.

Harvey Rosenfeld, president of the nonprofit Scarborough Economic Development Corp., said the parkway, built 20 years ago, hasn't been developed as quickly as town officials anticipated.

"Nobody wants to be the first one in," he said. "I'm hoping that starting to see activity down there will trigger more activity. It usually does."

The Town Council on May 16 will consider expanding the current zoning for offices and high-tech uses to include light manufacturing, research, development, medical diagnostic, health clubs, personal services and education.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said the intent is to encourage new development, but not abandon the town's vision that the parkway "be a place for high-quality development with significant value from a property tax standpoint."

The proposed zoning, for example, would allow gas stations to be built near the turnpike.

The parkway was built by the state Department of Transportation, making 300 acres of land accessible for the first time. After TD Bank -- then known as Peoples Heritage Bank -- in 1999 abandoned plans to build a back-office support center there due to lack of infrastructure, the town completed a $10 million project to connect the parkway to utilities.

Since then, there has been sporadic talk of projects, but interest waned as the economy worsened.

Bacon said the Horizon Solutions project is the type of development envisioned for the parkway. The Planning Board has done an initial review of the project, and Bacon anticipates the board will grant final approval this summer.

Jim Newton, Horizon Solutions president and CEO, said the new building will house a sales office, information system infrastructure, back-office staff and an updated training facility for customers. About 30 employees will work at the facility.

Newton said his company chose the Scarborough location after looking for almost a year for an existing facility to renovate in Portland or Westbrook. With no luck finding such a facility, company officials began to eye the Haigis Parkway because its location is convenient for employees, customers and visitors, he said.

"The neighborhood provides a nice surrounding for our team and there is good infrastructure for our company-wide data center that will be housed there," he said.

Rosenfeld feels strongly that the lack of development along the parkway is a direct result of the economy.

"It's unfortunate that we've had some false starts with the parkway, but I think people remain optimistic it will be an asset to Scarborough and the region," he said. "I think there's a confidence the decision was right to spend money on the infrastructure and be patient."

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

 

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