Day At The Track

Deal to purchase Scarborough Downs

08:01 AM 08 Dec 2017 NZDT
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Scarborough Downs, harness racing Harness racing will continue at least temporarily at Scarborough Downs, which is under contract to be sold to Cross Roads Holdings.
The 480-acre Scarborough Downs property is now under contract to a development company owned by the Risbara and Michaud brothers.
Portland Press Herald Photo
Harness racing will continue at least temporarily at Scarborough Downs, which is under contract to be sold to Cross Roads Holdings.

SCARBOROUGH — A group of well-known local business owners Thursday confirmed they have a contract to purchase the 480-acre harness racing Scarborough Downs property.

The sale to Cross Roads Holdings, which was first revealed in October, is not expected to be finalized until early January.

What was not revealed until Thursday is that the principals of Cross Roads are the owners of Risbara Bros. Construction, longtime developers in southern Maine, and Peter and Richard Michaud, former owners of Michaud Distributors.

All have deep roots in Scarborough. In a press release, Rocco Risbara III said, “We care about our town’s future and it (will) be a privilege for us to develop this land.”

Few details were available about possible redevelopment plans for the Downs. But the partners said they expect it to be a long-term project, and plan to keep the historic race track open, at least for now.

As part of the agreement, Cross Roads Holdings will lease the track back to its current owners and, in the process, preserve more than 60 track jobs.

“For years, we sought after prospective buyers that were connected to the community and willing to work toward the preservation of our heritage,” Scarborough Downs owner Denise Terry said in the press release.

“The Risbara and Michaud families present a perfect match (and) our family and employees are excited to work with (such) respected, local business owners,” Terry said.

Scarborough Downs has hosted harness races since 1950. It also offers off-track betting and holds various special events throughout the year.

The Downs has long sought to be allowed to offer other forms of gambling, but a series of referendums that would have allowed slot machines were all defeated.

Last spring, Thom Powers led a group of Massachusetts-based developers that specialize in distressed properties and mixed-use projects in a bid to buy Scarborough Downs.

That deal fell through, leaving the way open for the Risbaras and Michauds.

No purchase price was announced, but according to published reports, Downs owner Sharon Terry had previously asked $7.5 million for the property, which includes a grandstand and clubhouse, barns, half-mile racetrack and outlying land.

In speaking of the team behind Cross Roads Holdings, Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said it “has a great track record and I’m confident that they will have Scarborough’s best interest in mind as they redevelop this property.”

The town is developing a new Comprehensive Plan and redevelopment of the Downs property is a top priority, Hall added.

The town’s Long Range Planning Committee was scheduled to have an initial meeting with Cross Roads Holdings on Friday morning, after The Forecaster’s deadline.

At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Hall called the presentation to the Long Range Planning Committee “the first step in the creation of a master plan” for the Scarborough Downs property.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the team of developers said it’s their intent to make the master planning process inclusive and open, and they want to get input from residents and town officials.

In 2013, Scarborough approved a new development zone for the Downs property, which allows several different uses, from residential to commercial to municipal.

“Cross Roads Holding will work collaboratively with the town, residents and end-users to determine the most successful and desirable ways to develop the large portion of land in the center of town,” the press release said.

Meanwhile, Scarborough Downs is still part of a long-shot bid by the town to get Amazon’s new headquarters.

Amazon, based in Seattle, asked municipalities or regions to submit proposals to build a second headquarters, known as HQ2, that would eventually employ 50,000 workers.

Cross Roads Holdings “is currently performing inspections and surveying the land as part of the due diligence process,” the press release said. “When that work is complete, the (sale of the) property will close.”

In an introduction letter to the Long Range Planning Committee, the consultant for Cross Roads Holdings, Gorrill Palmer, said it would “be a long-term development project with a 15- to 30-year build out.”

The phased development is designed “to incrementally deliver a return on investment, capitalize on market demand and steadily build out a diverse, mixed-use community,” the letter said.

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Reprinted with permission The Forecaster

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