Southgate House redevelopment set for approval

Avesta Housing needs contract zone approval to redevelop the historic Southgate House in the Dunstan area of Scarborough.

The Scarborough Town Council will hold a public hearing and likely grant final approval to a proposal to redevelop the historic Southgate House in Dunstan on Aug. 19.

The nearly $9 million project requires a contract zone. At a meeting July 15, the council approved the project on first reading. Avesta Housing, based in Portland, purchased the Southgate House in the spring and plans a 50-unit affordable housing complex.

In a prior interview, Kyle Ambler, a development officer with Avesta, told the Current that the goal would be to restore the main house, while also preserving two of the barns located on the 3-acre site.

Under the redevelopment project, Avesta would offer studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments to those who make between 50 and 60 percent of the area median salary based on household size.

Ambler said the plan is to renovate the main house to include eight apartments, while a new, 42-unit building would be constructed to match the architectural style of the Southgate House, which is located at 577 U.S. Route 1.

The Southgate House, built by Dr. Robert Southgate between 1798 and 1805, is one of the historic structures in town recently added to Scarborough’s code of ordinances as a building worthy of preserving.

In its contract zone application, Avesta said the redevelopment project would “provide a significant increase in the variety of housing stock” available in Scarborough, and that it would be “a high-quality project that preserves the significant historic character of the site.”

Under Scarborough’s contract zoning rules, the Town Council must determine that the project is in the public interest and would have beneficial effects that would not result if the property were developed under existing zoning requirements.

Town Planner Dan Bacon told the Current this week that Avesta’s project “is very much in line with a variety of key initiatives being pursued in Scarborough,” which includes “more affordable housing and a greater range of housing choices.”

He added, “This is exhibited by the Habitat for Humanity project that is using former town land, as well as other housing efforts.  The Avesta project is consistent with these goals and would provide additional affordable, workforce-type housing.”

Bacon also said the project fits in with recent efforts in Scarborough to preserve “some of our most historic properties and buildings.”

“This project would preserve and restore the historic Southgate House, which has been viewed by many as one of the most threatened historic buildings in town, given its location and pressure on it for redevelopment,” he said.

Bacon also praised Avesta for its creativity in adding a “barn-like structure” to further reflect the property’s historic significance.

Another positive aspect of this project, he said, is that it’s located in the center of Dunstan, “where the town has been focused on promoting redevelopment in accordance with a Dunstan Corner Revitalization Strategy created last fall.”

Overall, Bacon said, “This project would be a significant step in implementing a piece of that strategy.”

For his part, Ambler said, “We are certainly grateful to the Town Council for voting to move the project along (and) we are thrilled to have such a positive reception for the project, particularly given this will be our first development in Scarborough.”

If the council approves the contract zone, the project would go back to the Planning Board for site plan approval, according to Ambler.

Looking for more?

Check out Avesta's blog, The Porch Light, for more news, updates and stories.

Contact Development and Communications Manager Sara Olson at 207-553-7780 x3352 or by email.