Scarborough has posted some of the largest population gains of any Maine community.
A sign for the Scarborough municipal campus on Monday, June 13, 2022. The town has seen significant growth in recent years, seeing the highest absolute increase in residents of any community in Maine from 2010 to 2020. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

Many know Scarborough for the now-defunct harness racing track, beaches or for being headquarters of the Hannaford supermarket chain. But an increasing number of Mainers are calling the town home.

The community 10 minutes south of Portland saw the highest increase in residents in Maine from 2010 to 2020, with a 3,200-person spike during that period. It grew to over 22,000 people, moving ahead of Augusta, Brunswick and Sanford in population during that time and becoming the most populous town in Maine.

That increase is likely due to the number of multi-family housing that developers have worked with the town to build in Scarborough in recent years, as well as the Scarborough Downs mixed-use development project, said Thomas Hall, the town manager since 2008.

He suspects that most of that growth occurred during the second half of the 2010s, when the vast majority of that new housing became available.

“The multi-family component, unlike single-family homes, is built much quicker and can certainly bring more people in a shorter period of time,” Hall said.

That includes hundreds of new units on the Scarborough Downs site, as well as at The Beacon at Gateway, which was built in 2018 and features 288 units. Those units are high-end, with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce describing them as “luxury.”

There have also been several new affordable housing projects, especially focused on local seniors, he said.

Hall, who said he knew Scarborough was growing but was unfamiliar with the census statistic, said that the town likely has land-use regulations that allow for denser housing than other communities. He also attributed the growth to the town’s proximity to Portland and its school department, often lauded as having some of the best schools in Maine, including by U.S. News and World Report.

But as Hall points out, Scarborough has grown for decades. Each U.S. census has shown it gaining population since 1930, when the population was around 2,400 to Portland’s 71,000.

Its number of residents has increased nearly 10-fold since then, narrowing the gap with its larger neighbor. Scarborough is more affluent than the rest of Cumberland County, with median household income surpassing $100,000, according to the 2020 American Community Survey.

A home at 34 Inspiration Drive in the Eastern Village neighborhood of Scarborough on Monday morning. The home sold for $1,025,000 in late May as the town continues to see new residens. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

Though the town has promoted multi-family housing, many are also moving into single-family homes. The median price of the 30 homes recorded as sold in Scarborough by Redfin in the last month had a median price of $607,500, far above that of the rest of Maine.

Late last month, a three-bedroom home on Inspiration Drive in the prestigious Eastern Village neighborhood sold for over $1 million. The colonial style home featured three full bathrooms, a pool and a pool house that the lister advertised as being the only one in the neighborhood.

In 2020, 1 in 10 had moved into a new home in Scarborough in the last year, according to American Community Survey numbers. Most were from elsewhere in Cumberland County, while 3 percent were from another state and 2 percent elsewhere in Maine.

Though Scarborough saw the highest increase by total number of people in Maine, by percentage change, it was not the highest population increase in the state for a community of over 500 people. That distinction belonged to Ogunquit.

Hall sees the population growth as part of a larger plan for developing Scarborough in the years to come. As the community focuses on bringing in new jobs, he hopes that it will bring in even more people who will eventually make it their home.

“We’ve had fairly brisk … commercial non-residential development as well,” Hall said. “And so, it’s all related.”