This rendering shows the proposed site, far left, at The Downs in Scarborough for an apartment building for people with physical disabilities. The building would be adjacent to other residences and commercial spaces. Contributed / The Downs

Developers at The Downs say the success of a planned 50-unit affordable apartment building for the physically disabled hinges on the exemption The Downs seeks from Scarborough’s building permit cap.

Such affordable housing is already exempted from the town’s cap, but The Downs exemption is needed to help that project thrive, according to Dan Bacon, development director for M&R Holdings, one of the developers behind The Downs.

“This building site relies on a whole phase to move forward,” Bacon said, referring to other residences and access to commercial areas for shopping, dining, employment opportunities and transportation. “We need the extended infrastructure. We need to create other sites.”

Under the building cap, The Downs is allowed to construct 43 units per year.

The Town Council will take up a request for exemption in September that would allow The Downs to double the number of housing permits.

If The Downs developers are granted an exemption from the building cap, Topsham-based nonprofit 3i Housing of Maine hopes to break ground on the building in 2023 and start accepting residents in 2024.


The project would also require Planning Board approval.

The building would be the first of its kind in Maine and sit among the commercial buildings and other housing at The Downs.

“Our site would be right in that hub,” said Paul Linet, founder and president of 3i Housing. “Residents would be able to avail themselves to all the kinds of vibrant activities that the community presents, whether it’s a community center that’s perhaps going to take hold there, retail, restaurants, employment opportunities, transportation.”

“The intention of The Downs is to be super mixed-use in terms of different residences, different housing types, having commercial space, street network and development program,” Bacon said.

Linet wants to build housing that allows residents with disabilities to maintain their independence. He brought that vision to the developers at The Downs and partnered with Preservation of Affordable Housing, a Boston-based nonprofit that owns 4,800 low- and moderate-income apartments in New England.

“There’s about 18% of people in Maine between the ages of 18 and 64 who have a disability,” Linet said. “We want to demonstrate that this can work in improving the quality of life and opportunities in The Downs for employment and access to transportation and the like.”

The 3i Housing building would be technologically advanced, Linet said, making it easier for disabled people to live there independently.

“(The units) would enable someone with a wheelchair or other mobility impairments to live in the community through assistive technology that would be geared directly to those particular needs,” Linet said. “For example, there could be a smart home technology and someone could manage their environment (using) voice control, like the opening of doors or turning on or off their entertainment or their computer or their shades.”

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