The developers of a new mixed-use complex in Scarborough broke ground on the commercial center of the sprawling project Friday.

The Downs’ Innovation District has 57 lots on about 70 acres that are cleared, have access to utilities and initial permits, said Diana Nelson, a spokeswoman for the project. She said there are sales agreements on 11 of the lots and the developers are continuing with plans for a business incubator building for small companies in the commercial area.

“The demand has been amazing,” Nelson said, noting that the developers had anticipated selling about five of the commercial spots a year, and already have more than doubled that in 2019. “We have far exceeded our timeline.”

The commercial district is the latest phase of the development that is creating a mix of residential, office, recreation and other uses on property connected to the Scarborough Downs racetrack. Local and state officials, including Sen. Susan Collins, were on hand to celebrate the opening of the commercial district during the groundbreaking Friday afternoon.

The $615 million project is seen as a new center for the town, Nelson said. It includes about 10 miles of recreation trails, she said, and as much as 40 percent of the total space will be preserved as open space.

“The idea is to create a heart of the community” in a part of town that has been underutilized, she said. It’s expected to include a “town center” with an athletic complex including an ice rink and pool, restaurants and small retailers, she said. There will be 126 units of new housing and a memory care facility, Nelson said.


Exterior view of one of the condos at The Downs in Scarborough. Courtesy Black Fly Media Chris Smith

Nelson said development of housing is also proceeding, with its mix of single-family homes, apartments and condominiums sold out. About half of the residential spaces are already occupied, she said.

Sam Marcisso said he decided to move two of his businesses from Westbrook to Scarborough after learning about The Downs.

He said he will build a headquarters for a franchise business, Zoom Drain, and another for Pine State Services in the Innovation District. Zoom Drain, which offers plumbing and sewer services, should be open in The Downs by next summer, Marcisso said, and Pine State Services, which provides plumbing, heating, cooling and electric services, opening by the spring of 2021.

After talking to the developers about their plans, “I said, ‘Why wouldn’t I go there?’ ” said Marcisso, who lives in Scarborough. The project is being developed by Peter and Richard Michaud and William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, all of whom have roots in the community.

Marcisso’s two businesses have 93 employees, he said, and one of the workers already has bought a condominium in The Downs, illustrating the development’s “live, work, play” approach.

The location is close to Portland, he said, and also close to Biddeford, where Pine State Services has another office.

Nelson said the project, when completed, is expected to generate about $10 million in new tax revenue and about 3,000 new jobs for Scarborough.

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