SCARBOROUGH — The new owners of Scarborough Downs plan to kick off development of the 500-acre property with a variety of housing projects between Route 1 and the racetrack’s grandstand.

The Planning Board unanimously approved a master plan for the first phase of the Crossroads Planned Development District on Thursday night.

It calls for construction of a 30-lot single-family subdivision, 24 garden condominiums, 24 duplex cottages, a 56-unit apartment complex and a 12-unit memory care facility spread over 57 acres near the Route 1 entrance to the property.

The developers said the goal for the first phase is to create a community of neighborhoods organized along interconnected tree-lined streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and recreational trails through nearby woods and wetlands.

Some board members questioned the density, size and architecture of the proposed housing, which is largely conceptual at this point. Then they voted 4-0 for the Phase 1 master plan.

Board member Rachel Hendrickson admitted after the vote that expectations are high for such a large property in the center of town.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Hendrickson said. “This is the first phase. When people see it, I want it to knock their socks off. I want a great design and I think we’re getting there.”

No residents spoke when asked for public comment.

The Phase 1 master plan limits development to 75 percent of the 57 acres and sets a 2,500-square-foot minimum for single-family house lots.

The single-family subdivision will be geared toward workforce housing, said Rocco Risbara III, one of the developers.

“Not great big 3,000-square-foot houses,” Risbara assured the board. “They just don’t fit here.”

The Downs was purchased in January for $6.7 million by a group of longtime Scarborough residents consisting of Rocco, William and Marc Risbara, owners of Risbara Bros. Construction; and Peter and Richard Michaud, former owners of Michaud Distributors, a snack delivery company.

The developers know expectations are high and they aim to fulfill them.

“I think that we can meet a lot of the needs that people say they want,” Rocco Risbara said after Thursday’s meeting.

The next step will be to seek board approval for Phase 1 subdivision and site plans. If all goes well, construction would start this summer, Risbara said.

The developers have said it will take 10 to 20 years to transform the Downs into a town center with an “urban village” character that includes housing, shopping, dining, offices and recreational facilities.

“But a good part of this is going to be done within 10 years,” Risbara said. “We know there’s pent up demand for what we have planned and I think it’s going to sell pretty quickly.”

The next section of the Downs to be developed would be 50 acres off Payne Road, on the northern end of the property, Risbara said.

The town several years ago designed zoning specifically for the Downs property that allows for a wide range of uses, including a town center, mixed housing, recreational and commercial.

More than a dozen previous attempts to buy the Downs fell through.

Heading this development effort is former Scarborough town planner Dan Bacon, who is now a planning project manager with the Gorrill Palmer engineering firm in South Portland.

Scarborough Downs has hosted live races since 1950. The developers have said they have no current plans for the racetrack area, which will be leased to the previous owners “for the foreseeable future” and preserve 60 racing-related jobs.

The board approved a conceptual infrastructure plan in January. Planning Board Chairman Nick McGee said he expects the developers to be back for site plan and subdivision approval within the next few weeks.

The Scarborough Downs phase 1 master plan submitted for approval Thursday night:

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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