A rendering of the project shows the view of the apartment building from Summer Street in Bath. The age-restricted one-bedroom units will be built in the half-acre lot where the Bath YMCA once stood. Photo courtesy of Amy Cullen

BATH — The Szanton Company, a Portland-based housing developer, secured the final piece of funding needed to begin construction on 50 new apartments in downtown Bath.

A $7.2 million affordable housing tax credit allocation from affordable housing authority MaineHousing makes up nearly half of the $15 million project, according to Amy Cullen, Szanton Company vice president and project manager. With the tax credit under their belt, the company plans to begin construction in November or December, said Cullen. The doors of the new apartments are slated to open in February 2023.

The Szanton Company’s plan involves building 46 new apartments in the vacant half-acre lot at 26 Summer St., across the street from the Patten Free Library.

The company also will purchase and rehabilitate the adjacent Moses and Columbia Blocks, at 24 Summer St .and 168-194 Front St. Four loft-style apartments will be added to the vacant portion of the Columbia Block, and the 10 existing apartments in the Moses and Columbia Blocks will be renovated.

The new apartments will be restricted to those 55 and older, but Cullen said the people living in the Moses and Columbia Blocks will remain in their apartments, regardless of their age.

The company said it noticed a need for more one-bedroom housing in Bath because those are in the highest demand in the Huse School apartments, also owned by the Szanton Company. Cullen said the company hopes the addition of these 50 apartments will help fill that need while creating turnover in Bath’s housing market.

“Many older adults are looking to downsize to someplace where they can forgo home maintenance and become less dependent on driving,” said Cullen. “When they move to this project, it will free up single-family homes in Bath for younger families.”

Just over 20% of Bath’s estimated 8,338 population is 65 and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Roughly 70% of the new apartments will be reserved for households with an annual salary of $25,000-$38,000, with rents ranging from $690-$890 per month for a one-bedroom unit. The remaining 30% would be rented at market rates without limits to tenant incomes, according to the company.

The market rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Bath ranges from $1,100-$1,400 per month depending on the size, location and amenities, according to Nathan Szanton, president of the Szanton Company.

Nearly 14% of the city’s population was living below the poverty line as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

The average cost of a home in Bath was $175,700 from 2015 to 2019, U.S. Census reports. Bath’s median monthly rent was $862 in 2019.

Cullen said the company focuses on creating mixed-income housing because “We don’t like the idea of segregating people by economic status.”

The Szanton Company is calling the project The Uptown, a nod to the movie theater that occupied the center of the site from 1938 to 1962. The theater was torn down to make way for the YMCA pool, which stood until 2012.

“We’re excited about the Szanton Company securing funding to move forward with the Uptown project,” said Marc Meyers, assistant Bath city manager. “The Uptown will provide an influx of much-needed housing options for people ages 55 and older and activate a dormant, vacant parcel in our downtown as well as spaces in the historic Moses and Columbia blocks.”

Meyers said the addition of the new apartments will not sway the city’s decision of what to do with the original Morse High School building when it’s turned over to the city later this year. He said the old high school will most likely be used for “a mixed-use of residential and commercial spaces along with a fire station,” based on public feedback and a redevelopment study.

“The Uptown will help fill a housing need in our community, but it’s too early in the Morse process to define what type of housing may be most needed or work best in that building and site,” said Meyers.

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