Construction is set to begin next summer on the Milliken Heights senior housing project. About 75 percent of the 55 units are aimed at those who earn a maximum of 60 percent of the area’s median income. Szanton Company image

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The Town Council has unanimously approved a requested contract zone for the Milliken Heights housing project in Old Orchard Beach, aimed at those 55 and older. The developer, the Szanton Company of Portland, is expected to begin construction of the 55-unit apartment building next summer.

The Town Council also approved a tax increment financing, or TIF, district and credit enhancement program that will see 80 percent of the annual property taxes due returned to the Szanton Company for 15-year period.

As well, the council accepted a $510,000 state Community Development Block Grant designed to fund architectural and engineering services for the project.

The votes took place at the Oct. 20 Town Council meeting,

Council Chair Shawn O’Neill said there had been a number of closed-door sessions,  with public workshops and public hearings on the TIF proposal.

“Through a collaborative effort, we came up with the best option,” said O’Neill, pointing out that the negotiation had begun with a request for a 30-year TIF, but in the end the parties agreed on the 15-year plan.

“We’re looking forward to the beginning of construction,” he said.

Proposal documents show that the TIF was requested because of the large number of affordable units planned for the building — in all, about 75 percent of the Milliken Heights units are to be reserved for households earning below 60 percent of the area median income, and 25 percent would be market-rate dwellings.

Szanton Company Development Officer Kristin Martin said all the units will be restricted to households whose head is age 55 or older.

According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in Old Orchard Beach from 2014 to 2018 was $50,246.

Martin said the Old Orchard Beach Planning Board approved the site and subdivision plan in August, contingent upon passage of the contract zone.

“Our next steps are to submit our Affordable Housing Tax Credit application to MaineHousing, which we are expecting to do this month,” said Martin. “After that we will work on the full design process and work on construction bidding. We expect to break ground in the summer of 2021.”

Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead said with Aug. 1 as the timeline to begin construction, the project is expected to be ready for occupancy on Oct. 1, 2022.

The proposed units will meet an existing need for quality, affordable, year-round rental units, OOB officials have said.

The plans call for construction of a 48,870-square-foot, four-story building. Each of the 55 one-bedroom units will be about 625 square feet. Heat and hot water are to be included with the monthly rental fee.

The building will feature a community room, laundry room, manager’s office and more.

Situated on the west side of Portland Avenue, Milliken Heights would sit in the largely wooded area east of Milliken Pond. The site is about 1,000 feet north of the Old Orchard Beach Town Hall, at the intersection of Saco Avenue and Old Orchard Street and was formerly owned by Roger and Mary Tousignant. It is close to OOB’s downtown.

A contract zone was required for the project to move forward because of restrictions in the zones that limit building height to 35 feet and because of lot size requirements. The proposed building is 42 feet and has an elevator tower that may be up to six feet higher, the agreement spells out.

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

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