SCARBOROUGH — A new group of Scarborough residents has started weighing in on what a new downtown should eventually look like.

The Downtown Development Committee was scheduled to meet for the first time Jan. 7. Town Manager Tom Hall said the committee and its work is a part of the 2018 tax finance district agreement between the town and developers Peter and Michael Richaud, and William, Marc and Rocco “Roccy” Risbara III.

The developers bought the 479-acre parcel collectively referred to as The Downs in 2018, and have since been working on a multi-stage commercial, residential and industrial development plan.

Hall said one of the provisions of the agreement was that the developers would also work to turn part of the parcel into a new downtown area, something Scarborough has never had. The committee will work with developers to map out just what Scarborough’s downtown will offer.

“We’ve got a golden opportunity to do something really special for the community,” Hall said.

The committee will eventually produce recommendations to the developers and the town council, who will have final say on the downtown area’s makeup.

Members of the new committee said this week that they are not going in with a “wish list,” per se, but they all agreed that the area must above all be vibrant, with activities and services that will draw people in.

Travis Kennedy of Beech Ridge Road, who works in public affairs for Cumberland County, said he has been doing research on downtown areas and one thing that stands out is what’s called a “two-shift” downtown. That translates to things for people to do both during the day and at night. Keeping the downtown area active all the time, he said, should be important.

“I’ve seen some of those sort of ‘ghost’ downtowns before, where at the end of the day, everybody moves out,” said Kennedy, who is also on the board of directors for the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation.

Bryan Shumway, another participant on the nine-member committee, is also a member and former chairperson of both the Scarborough Housing Alliance and the Scarborough Education Foundation. He is president of Wishrock, a company that helps develop affordable housing. He said one concern he has is making sure buildings in the downtown area have a lot to offer on the street level.

“Food is the great attractor of people,” he said.

Sarah Leighton, 34, is a member of the Scarborough School Board. She grew up in town and agreed that a downtown area is something Scarborough is missing. She said she looks for inspiration to other walkable downtown areas such as in Yarmouth and even South Portland neighborhoods such as Willard Beach.

Leighton said she imagines businesses such as coffee shops clustered around “some sort of central location for people to gather.”

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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