An artist rendering of the 55-unit Milliken Heights apartment project proposed for Old Orchard Beach by The Szanton Company, a Portland-based developer. The units would be designed for those 55 and older. About 75 percent of the units would be reserved for those who earn about 60 percent of the area median income. Courtesy Image/The Szanton Company


OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The Szanton Company has purchased five acres behind the Old Orchard Beach Funeral Home and plans to build a 55-unit apartment complex there for those ages 55 and older.

About 75 percent of the Milliken Heights units would be reserved for households earning below 60 percent of the area median income, and 25 percent would be market-rate dwellings, company representatives said.

The Portland Avenue site is about 1,000 feet north of the Old Orchard Beach Town Hall, at the intersection of Saco Avenue and Old Orchard Street, said company President Nathan Szanton in a news release. Situated on the west side of Portland Avenue, Milliken Heights would sit in the largely wooded area east of Milliken Pond.

The funeral home’s current parking lot would be expanded and used for resident parking — the funeral home building itself was excluded from the sale and will remain in operation. About three of the five acres of the site would be retained as woods.

“We’re thrilled about the location,” said Szanton. “It’s in the heart of town, just steps from a grocery store, post office, pharmacy, bank, hardware store, and library. The beach is a little further, but still less than a 10-minute walk.”


Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead said there is a need for quality, affordable year round rental units in town.

“There haven’t been any subsidized apartment units built recently,” said Mead in a telephone interview on Thursday, April 9.

He said information on file at the Town Hall shows that the maximum income for an individual renting one of the subsidized units is $38,000, and $44,000 for two people.

Mead said the anticipated rent on a one-bedroom, 600-square-foot unit, is about $1,000 and includes some utilities.

“It’s an ideal location, accessible to everything,” Mead said.

Longtime Old Orchard Beach residents Roger and Mary Tousignant sold the land to The Szanton Company. Roger Tousignant continues to own and operate the funeral home, which he founded in 1961. The Tousignants said they look forward to seeing an apartment building take shape behind the funeral home.


“We were pleased to sell the land to The Szanton Company because we know their development will enhance the community,” said Roger Tousignant in the release.

The Szanton Company has developed 11 mixed-income apartment buildings throughout southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire since 2004, including two in the nearby Biddeford mill district — The Mill at Saco Falls, and The Lofts at Saco Falls, said company development associate Carl Szanton.

“We hope to finance the project primarily through Affordable Housing Tax Credits, which is a federal program administered by Maine State Housing Authority,” said Carl Szanton.

The project is scheduled for preliminary review before the Old Orchard Planning Board in May, Mead said.

The Milliken Heights project would also require approval from the Old Orchard Beach Town Council, he said, because a 75 percent Tax Increment Financing agreement would be required. Under the proposal, Szanton would pay Old Orchard Beach 25 percent of the assessed value in property taxes for 15 years.

The name Milliken Heights was chosen because of the family’s role in the town’s economic history, particularly when tourism played a smaller role, Szanton officials said.

John Milliken settled in the area in 1710, and his descendants were entrepreneurs in ice trading and lumber production, beginning in the 19th century. Nearby Milliken Pond, now the site of Paradise Park Resort Campground, was used by the Milliken’s to harvest ice. Two miles north is Mill Brook, which powered the family lumber mill and employed 140 workers at its peak. Neither business survived beyond the 1930’s Great Depression.

Nathan Szanton said if approvals and financing fall into place, construction of Milliken Heights could begin as soon as the spring of 2021.

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