The Downs’ proposed town center district includes a community center to the left of the image. Rendering by CUBE 3

The Downs developers say their vision for a town center hinges on getting more residential building permits than allowed each year under Scarborough’s zoning.

Surrounding residences will make the town center viable, according to Crossroads Holdings, but the exemption would also benefit the town to the tune of $4.7 million in annual tax revenue by 2028.

Scarborough has an annual building permit cap of 144.

Typically, developers are allowed 20% of those permits. Since The Downs is located in a “growth district,” its developers are allotted 30%, or 43, of the permits.

However, developers expect some of their buildings to have more than 43 units and have said that the cap will severely delay construction.

The developers filed a request for the exemption Feb. 4, which will be reviewed by the town council.


The proposed exemption would cover only the town center district, which will occupy 90 acres or roughly 17% of the 525-acre development. It would apply to multi-unit and mixed-use housing, not standalone single-family homes.

The Downs at this point has an assessed value of $75 million. A growth cap exemption would allow that value to reach $370 million within six years, according to Tom Dworetsky, director of research at Camoin Associates, a New York-based economic development firm working with the developers.

“By 2028, it would be five times greater than what it is today,” he said.

Public safety costs are estimated to be $1.1 million per year within The Downs by 2028, though the town’s annual tax revenue from the development is expected to be about $4.7 million, according to Dworetsky.

“The revenue generated by The Downs will cover that cost but also a surplus,” Dworetsky said.

From 2022 to 2028, Dworetsky projects that the town will earn $21 million in tax revenue from The Downs.


“The issue before us is still housing,” said Councilor Don Hamill, speaking on Wednesday. “The concepts and designs that we’ve seen still don’t really give a very good idea what that would look like.”

Councilor Jon Anderson said developers should begin working closely with the town’s schools to ensure the schools can keep up with the growth.

“Are they prepared with their infrastructure to handle it?” he asked.

The council will work with Levine Planning Strategies to evaluate the developers’ request for the permitting exemption.

“The next step for us is to meet with (the consultants) and go over your proposal and plan, and understand the details with a little more clarity,” Cloutier said.

What to expect at The Downs

The proposed exemption would cover only the town center district,  which will occupy 90 acres or roughly 17% of the 525-acre development. It would apply to multi-unit and mixed-use housing, not standalone single-family homes.


Currently, 37% of The Downs consists of affordable housing and 57% workforce housing. Developers argue that a wealth of housing within walking distance is needed for a vibrant, commercially-driven town center.

Developers on Wednesday presented the town council with plans including a community center, recreation center and central “amenities building.”

Few details were provided about the community center because developers said they hope to work with the town to design it to fit the community’s needs.

Space around the rec center could be used for athletic fields, the developers said.

How the amenities building will be used is unknown. Brian O’Connor of Massachusetts design firm CUBE 3 said the building will become “the core and heart of this place” and be “the echo of the grandstand” of the old Downs racetrack.

Surrounding the public buildings would be offices, commercial and mixed-use buildings and a grocery store.

To make the town center pedestrian-friendly, the buildings will be set back from the street, allowing for wide sidewalks that also could be used for outdoor dining.

Developers also stressed cohesion in architecture.

“If you’re driving in this area,” O’Connor said. “We want you to know when you’re in the middle and we want you to know when you’re leaving. We want all these spaces to be meaningful.”

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