Southgate Farm in Scarborough provides 38 new affordable units for the town. Courtesy image

SCARBOROUGH — A victory for historic preservation, the Southgate Farm in Scarborough, built in 1805, has been converted into 38 new and affordable homes.

Avesta Housing, a nonprofit developer and owner of the property, celebrated the grand opening of Southgate on Oct. 23, and the public was invited to join and tour a few of the new apartments.

The property was purchased in 2014, said Senior Vice President Eric Boucher. The builders were able to work with the town of Scarborough to convert the property into homes.

Informational brochures Avesta provided said that 15 of the homes are for residents who earn at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Twenty-three are for residents at or below 50 percent, and 20 percent of the homes are for households at risk of becoming homeless.

The project cost nearly $8 million and the funding came from MaineHousing, Boston Capital, Bangor Savings Bank, Community Housing Capital, NeighborWorks America, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and Scarborough Housing Alliance, according to a press release from Avesta Housing.

Various town committees and the developers worked together in order to create a safe, affordable and well-preserved housing option that will keep people living in Scarborough, said Town Manager Tom Hall.

“This has been a long-time coming,” Hall said. “I want to recognize all of the Southgate residents. We have some new residents, new to this country, frankly, who I think are tenants here. We also have a couple who live in a unit, who used to live in Scarborough, who are now in retirement and are able to come back here because of this place. It’s really a terrific example of how many folks need this kind of housing and how they can be served.”

Hall thanked all the organizations involved for working with the town and the Scarborough Historical Society.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have many of these properties left, so it’s a real treasure when we’re able to preserve this for everyone to appreciate,” he said.

The house, built in 1805, was originally owned by Dr. Robert Southgate, who moved to Scarborough from Massachusetts in 1771, said Avesta Senior Vice President Eric Boucher.

“It was nearly 1800 before stagecoaches became common, and around 1805 Dr. Southgate built this house on what was then the new turnpike,” he said. “The Scarborough Turnpike Co., headed by Dr. Southgate, along with his brothers William and Cyrus King, built the Cumberland Turnpike, the first in New England, which ran straight across the marsh, from Dunstan Avenue to Oak Hill, the current path of today’s Route 1, with gravel hauled by oxen from the pit on Scarborough’s Hill, which is over there,” he pointed.

“It was funded by tolls of 8 cents for a horse and 25 cents for a stagecoach,” said Boucher.

After Southgate’s death in 1833, he said, the house was passed down to his son and later went through various owners and served many different purposes like as a rental house and a restaurant.

Dan Brennan, the director of Maine- Housing, said that the project was a great accomplishment, especially when facing the problem of affordable housing in Maine.

“With such significant challenges come some great opportunities,” said Brennan. “Partners like Avesta housing, the town of Scarborough and everyone else who made this possible are advancing our shared mission of making sure every Mainer has a safe home they can afford. This work is what builds the solid foundation of our communities.”

Boucher said that he was happy that people who grew up in Scarborough could come back.

“As a Scarborough resident, I’m very proud to call Scarborough home,” he said.

Dana Totman, Avesta’s CEO and president, said that a demand for more affordable homes is high in Maine, for people with a variety of backgrounds.

“We’re pleased that the redevelopment of Southgate Farm has led to a safe, quality, affordable home for 38 households,” he said. “It’s particularly special that with this development involved the preservation and resurrection of an important community landmark.”

The press release said that Avesta received 1,600 requests for affordable homes from seniors in 2018.

“The need certainly remains here and in all of Maine, really, and this project is an example of what we can do with partnership, and we certainly look forward to the next chance we have,” Hall said.

Catherine Bart can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9029.

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