The owners of Scarborough Downs have agreed to sell a sprawling parcel that includes the struggling harness racetrack to a local company that is planning a major redevelopment of the property.

Scarborough-based Cross Roads Holdings went under contract in October to buy the 480-acre parcel at Scarborough Downs and lease the track to its existing owners.

The holding group’s management team includes William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III of Risbara Bros., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors, all longtime residents.

The potential owners envision a long-term redevelopment of the property into a town center with housing, shopping, dining, offices, an interconnected road network, trails, recreation facilities and more. The buildout could take 15 to 30 years, according to an introductory letter from the company to Scarborough’s Long Range Planning Committee.

“The town wants and needs different types of businesses and different types of services as well as different types of housing that can all be met with this property,” Rocco Risbara said in an interview Thursday. “For us, we recognize it has wonderful development potential.”

As lifelong Scarborough residents, the management team has insight into what the town needs and what can be accomplished on the property, Risbara said.


“We have all grown up in this town, we love this town dearly, we think it is the best town in Maine and we are committed to this project,” he said. “We are going to do it right.”

New ownership of the racetrack won’t affect Scarborough’s proposal to host a new headquarters for Amazon Corp., but Risbara is doubtful the long-shot bid will succeed.

“If Amazon called us I’m sure we’d talk to them, but I don’t think we are that high on their priority list,” he said.

A lease agreement with the racetrack owners will allow Scarborough Downs to preserve 60 jobs, according to Cross Roads Holdings. Risbara said there are no plans for the racetrack, but it will be leased to the current owners “for the foreseeable future.”


In its introductory letter, Cross Roads said a renovated grandstand and track could be a focal point for the property, which could host horse racing along with sporting events, concerts and conventions.


Cross Roads Holdings is doing inspections and surveying the land, and expects to close on the property in early 2018. A master plan for the property will be presented to Scarborough for review this winter, the company said.

“I don’t see any reason why we would not close on this purchase and continue with the redevelopment,” Risbara said.

Scarborough Downs has hosted live races since 1950. The property has been for sale for years and had been listed for $7.5 million. Risbara did not disclose the purchase price.

Several developers have shown interest in it, including Massachusetts developer Thom Powers, who had the property under contract nine months ago. Powers did not respond to emailed questions Thursday.

Stretching from Route 1 to Payne Road near Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike, Scarborough Downs is owned by Sharon Terry, widow of former owner Joe Ricci, and operated by her daughter Denise Terry.

Denise Terry said her family and employees are excited to work with the “respected local business owners” who are buying the property.


“For years, we sought after prospective buyers that were connected to the community and willing to work toward the preservation of our heritage. The Risbara and Michaud families present a perfect match,” Terry said in a prepared statement. Terry, through a spokesperson, declined an interview request.

Once the thriving center of Maine’s harness racing industry, Scarborough Downs has fallen on hard times, with dwindling race attendance and revenue, and competition from casinos and online gambling. Repairs and upgrades to the property’s buildings are long overdue. Last year, it closed its horse barns after the Environmental Protection Agency flagged groundwater contamination from horse manure.

A purchase by well-known local developers is a positive sign for a serious redevelopment plan, compared with past proposals by unfamiliar, out-of-state buyers, said Town Manager Tom Hall.

“This collection of local folks have been here for many, many years and have done a lot of good work in town,” Hall said. “It really stands potentially as kind of their legacy.

“It doesn’t hurt when I and my staff have a pre-existing relationship with these folks,” he said. “It puts us in a position to collaborate from day one and that process is already underway.”



Risbara Bros. has developed housing, commercial and mixed-use developments in Scarborough and southern Maine. The company recently built nearly 200 single-family homes and apartments in Westbrook and is building another 110-unit apartment complex there after a plan for hundreds of homes was opposed by residents.

The Michaud family formerly owned Scarborough-based Michaud Distributors and currently is partnered with Risbara Bros. in Maine Properties, a property management firm in Scarborough.

Hall said zoning on Scarborough Downs requires an infrastructure plan for roads and utilities, and a master plan for a phased buildout of the parcel. The zoning rules are intended to focus development to create a town center on the property. Scarborough currently has no downtown core.

Residents who attended recent public sessions to draft a new comprehensive plan spent much of the time discussing the potential for Scarborough Downs, Hall said.

“This land is conveniently almost in the geographic center of the town,” he said. “I think there is an opportunity with the huge blank canvas this property represents to do something really special.”

Gilliam Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:


Twitter: grahamgillian

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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