Developers of the former Scarborough Public Safety building have plans to convert the former fire station into a grocer’s. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused some setbacks, Jack Soley, developer of the old Public Safety building site, said that the vision for a village atmosphere at the location is taking shape.

Soley told the Scarborough Town Council during a workshop on Jan. 26 that the former Public Safety Building on 246 U.S. Route 1 is to be repurposed to include a gym, grocer, community room, green space and bank, among other amenities.

Avesta Housing is proposing a 31-bedroom affordable senior housing facility on the site, and creating a campuswhere residents could access the businesses at a walking distance, Soley said.

“When we began this process, we talked to the town manager about creating a vibrant campus which included housing and as many amenities as possible on the site,” he said. “The goal from the start was to renovate the existing buildings on site, the fire and police station, and add structures that contributed to a village atmosphere. That’s really been from day one, we wanted to create a feel on the site that folks felt comfortable.”

The former Public Safety building site at 246 US Route 1 could become a village center, including walkable pathways, senior housing and businesses. Courtesy photo

Trying to secure tenants for the location has been challenging due to COVID-19, Soley said.

“We have been working for over six months now with a local small chain of grocery stores,” he said. “This grocery store, they have five stores in the immediate area, and they’ve had to close a store because of a positive test, reopen the store, close another store, reopen that store. It’s been a series of some sort of musical chairs of trying to keep stores open. They’re finally at the point after six months of negotiating that they finally feel comfortable that they feel like they can move forward.”

A crossfit gym located in South Portland could possibly enter a lease for the site, Soley said. A local bank, not currently in Scarborough, has also entered the discussion.

Nate Howes, development officer at Avesta Housing, said the 31 units at the proposed senior housing facility would measure at about 600 square feet, and the parking lot would be a .7 to 1 ratio. The facility would house seniors 55 and up.

Avesta Housing has five developments elsewhere in Maine that will possibly break ground this year, said Dana Totman, president and CEO.

The facility would require a Tax Increment Finance district, said Soley. TIF’s, that apply to newly assessed value on a property or in a district, allow some of the new property tax to go to developers for infrastructure and other improvements.

“Having Avesta Housing on site is, I think, a great boon to the community,” Soley said. “They have low impact in terms of traffic, small units and senior housing.”

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina asked if it would be possible for a multi-generational facility.

“I hate to see Scarborough lose diversity of housing,” she said. “I think it’s critical and I think it’s really critical of younger folks. We’re losing a lot of younger people who can’t afford to be here.”

Due to funding requirements with MaineHousing, the facility would need to be an affordable senior residence, said Totman.

“(Maine Housing) have some money that come from voters in some cases, a senior housing bond — that often gets sprinkled into these, and so the way they set their programs up and the way they use certain money often times has age restrictions,” he said.

Seniors are most likely the biggest group Avesta Housing has on its waitlist, Totman said.

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