The Saco Planning Board is considering a project that calls for 22 “micro-apartments” to be built in a former mill building on Saco Island.

Saco Island West LLC wants to build the 470-square-foot apartments on two floors above the popular Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery on Saco Island, which sits between downtown Saco and Biddeford. If approved, the project would join others in both cities that offer apartments in renovated mill buildings that also house businesses.

The project would also be the second in Saco to feature micro-apartments. The former Notre Dame de Lourdes church on Cutts Avenue will become 80 units ranging from 600 to 800 square feet as part of a three-phase project expected to begin late this year.

The “Saco Island SmartLofts” plan presented by Saco Island West LLC to the planning board includes a commercial space on the second floor and a total of 22 micro-apartments on the third and fourth floors. The micro-apartments will attract young residents to Saco, but the units could also appeal to people who are downsizing or spend part of the year outside of Maine, said Sam Zaitlin, director of development for Saco Island West.

Patrons enjoy drinks on the patio at Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco in 2012. Some 22 micro-apartments are planned for the third and fourth floors of the former mill building occupied by the pub. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“Market research has shown there is a huge market, as yet unserved in this area, for housing that millennials find attractive,” he said. “They want small, they want efficient and low-impact, they want technology, they prefer public transportation over buying cars, and they want ‘cool’ places to hang out. ‘The place to be’ is what downtown Saco is increasingly coming to represent.”

Zaitlin said each micro-apartment will have one bedroom and be rented at market rate. Exact floor plans and prices have not been finalized.

“This is a niche that has yet to be filled and there’s real demand for it,” he said. “It fits right in to everything that is happening on Saco Island and in the area.”

The western part of Saco Island, where the development is proposed, recently saw the opening of 150 new apartments in Mill 4, in addition to 65 residential units at Saco Island Apartments. Saco developer Bernie Saulnier has unveiled plans for a mixed-use development with residential units on the east side of the island, but has not yet submitted formal plans to the city.

William Mann, economic development director for the city, said there is “clearly a demand” for apartments in downtown Saco from people of all ages who want to be close to the beach and transportation and part of a walkable downtown.

“I think these units will have a very broad appeal and will have no trouble being absorbed into the marketplace,” Mann said. “It’s a well-conceived project and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Saco Planning Board this week gave preliminary subdivision approval to the Saco SmartLofts, said city planner Bob Hamlen. The project also will require site plan approval, final subdivision approval and a site law permit modification. The planning board is likely to look at the project again in September.

If approved, construction will begin this fall and the apartments will be ready by early 2018, Zaitlin said.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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