Andy and Lisa-Marie Stewart, co-owners of Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, are using Bath’s Facade Improvement Grant Program to replace doors and windows at the Front Street business. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — When a windstorm last fall shredded one of the awnings at BathPort, owner Dustin Slocum figured it was time to replace all four of the building’s overhangs.

Right around that time, the city informed him it was launching a new Facade Improvement Grant Program, a $300,000 initiative the city is offering through 2021 for commercial and mixed-use buildings in need of exterior improvements or buttoning up from the elements.

“It’s work that, quite frankly, we were going to do anyway, and when that letter landed on my desk, I thought, ‘this is perfect,'” Slocum said. “I’m glad to see that the city has a commitment to helping owners, and it allows me to do more work.”

Bath will fund half an eligible project’s expenses, up to $10,000. Out of 17 applicants, the city is contributing between $451 to $10,000 for 14 projects. Reasons for projects not receiving funds included “ineligible activities and insufficient estimates,” according to City Manager Marc Meyers.

The 14 projects have a total estimated cost of $270,362, of which the city is funding $99,975. Bath will offer other funding rounds later this year and in 2021.

BathPort – two buildings at 97-99 Commercial St. that comprise about 20,000 square feet – require ongoing maintenance, said Slocum, who purchased the 1973 complex in 2016. He estimates spending $20,000 to replace the awnings, along with new siding and paint on the southern-facing exterior wall of 99 Commercial St. He will pay the full cost and submit an invoice to the city, which will then refund $10,000 of his expenses.

“It’s going to really pop from the Commercial Street side,” Slocum said.

Dustin Slocum, owner of BathPort, plans to use city grant funds to replace awnings and chipped siding at 97 and 99 Commercial St. Courtesy Dustin Slocum

With funding offered in three cycles, more expensive projects could be proposed and accomplished in phases.

“As long as they do it, I’ll keep applying” to largely replace additional aged siding, Slocum said.

Sagadahock Real Estate Association’s sale of its wealth of long-owned downtown buildings, which began in 2018, was a major factor in launching the program, Meyers said. The effort is meant in part to boost Bath’s economic vitality and motivate private investment within the city’s commercial zones.

Lisa-Marie and Andy Stewart, a married couple who own Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine arts and crafts gift shop at 170 Front St., purchased the Grassy block, which contains 168, 170, 172 and 174 Front St. and dates back to at least 1890.

The Phippsburg couple plans to replace three of the block’s doors with more weather-resistant models. All the first-story windows will be replaced; each window will be one big panel, “more for the appearance of the retail store effect it should have,” Lisa-Marie Stewart said. Air conditioning units above the doors have already been replaced by interior systems.

The couple estimates this phase of the project to cost $22,400, of which the city will reimburse $10,000. The drafty, loose upper-story windows would be replaced in the second phase.

While the work “was in the plans anyway,” Andy Stewart said, the city funds are “just going to hurry us along, make us pull the trigger quicker.”

The property owner has to be the applicant. Projects have to be located in the Commercial 1, 2 or 4 districts, which includes properties along U.S. Route 1, and applicants must receive all necessary permits and approvals from the city to be eligible for funding.

The city is funding the program by using sheltered funds through the Bath Iron Works tax increment financing district that are earmarked for economic development uses; funding will not come from taxes. Annual funding is subject to the City Council’s approval during its regular budgeting process.

The following owners and properties also received grant funding: David Matero at 11 Centre St., Pratt Abbott/JJ Cleaners at 47 Centre St., Lori Benson/Maine’s First Ship at 27 Commercial St., Howie Kirkpatrick at 47 Commercial St., Sean Ireland at 48 Front St., Donna Piggott at 110 Front St., John Desjardins/Wilson’s Drug Store at 114 Front St., John Hall/J.R. Maxwell & Co. at 122 Front St., Halcyon Yarn at 12 School St., Mark Sewall/Hawkes-Mail It 4 U-Bert’s at 10 State Road, Patten Free Library at 33 Summer St. and the Chocolate Church Arts Center at 804 Washington St.

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