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The Uptown: Breaking Ground From MaineHousing

Breaking Ground on The Uptown

The following article is from MaineHousing about The Uptown, posted on June 28, 2022

MaineHousing is pleased to announce The Szanton Company (TSC), a Portland-based housing developer, has broken ground on a major new housing development for downtown Bath.

TSC will construct 50 new apartments on the site of the former YMCA at the corner of Summer and Front Streets.

In September 2019, TSC received permission from the Bath City Council to buy the vacant lot at 26 Summer Street, where the demolished portion of the YMCA stood.  The half-acre lot, which has sat vacant since 2012, will accommodate 46 of the 50 new apartments.

“The demand for housing is intense in Bath and in most parts of the State,” said Szanton Company President Nathan Szanton. “We’re getting tons of interest and have a lengthy waiting list already.”

The project also includes the rehabilitation of the adjacent Moses and Columbia Blocks, at 24 Summer Street and 168-194 Front Street.  These two buildings were built in 1897 and designed by John Calvin Stevens, Maine’s most noted architect.  They currently house ten residential units and six ground-level retail spaces. TSC is keeping all tenants in place, while renovating and modernizing the residential units, and completing a historic renovation of the exterior of the buildings.  Four new loft-style apartments will be added in a currently vacant portion of the Columbia Block.  The project will include a complete rehab of the historic YMCA gym, bringing it back to its original design and creating in it a community room and fitness center for residents.

Bath Housing Development Corporation previously owned the Moses and Columbia Blocks, but sold the buildings to TSC earlier this month.

“MaineHousing shows there is a need for 180 similar units here in Bath and  over 14,000 in Maine,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “Partners like The Szanton Company and Bath Housing Authority are working diligently in this and other communities to address the housing needs of Mainers. Without them our work would not be possible, and we thank them for it.”

The name The Uptown is a nod to the movie theater of the same name which occupied the center of the site from 1938 to 1962.  The theatre was torn down in 1961 to make way for the YMCA pool, which stood until 2012.

The Uptown site is at the intersection of Front and Summer Streets, across Front Street from Brackett’s Market, and across Summer Street from Patten Free Library.  Pedestrian access to the site will include both Summer and Elm Streets, with service access at the Elm Street end of the site, along with nine handicap parking spaces. The developer has secured 33 additional off-street parking spaces in an existing lot on the northeast corner of Summer and Front Streets.

Most of the apartments will be set aside for households age 55 or greater.  Roughly 70% will be reserved for households earning $30,000-$42,000 per year (roughly $15-$21 per hour for a full-time worker) with rents ranging from $790-$953 per month for a one-bedroom unit (incomes and rates set annually by HUD).  The remaining 30% will be rented at market rates, without regard to tenant incomes.  All of the 46 apartments in the new building at 26 Summer Street will be fully accessible by elevator.

The Szanton Company sees the building as an opportunity to create much-needed turnover in Bath’s housing stock. “Many older adults are looking to downsize to someplace where they can forgo home maintenance and become less dependent on driving,” said Amy Cullen, Szanton Company vice president and project manager.  “When they move to this project, it will free up single-family homes in Bath for younger families.”

The Uptown will feature an indoor connector between the existing Front Street buildings and the new construction wing on Summer Street.  The former basketball gym in the Moses Block will be brought back to its original appearance, and used as a community and fitness center room for residents.  A roof deck to be constructed on the new Summer Street building will offer residents views of Library Park and the Kennebec River.

Commercial spaces in the Moses and Columbia Blocks, at 168 through 194 Front Street, include a portion of Lisa Marie’s Made in Maine, Loyal Biscuit Co., J’Adore Consignment, Open Door Books, Kneading Balance Massage, and The Library Book Store.

Cullen is also excited about the potential of the project to add vitality to Bath’s downtown.  “Each one of our tenants, friends, and family will eat, shop, and spend time in Bath, particularly downtown.  The site is just steps from a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, library, department store, and many other shops and restaurants,” she said.

The Szanton Company has developed 12 mixed-income apartment buildings throughout Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire since 2004.  In Bath, it re-developed the vacant John E.L. Huse Memorial School into 59 apartments in 2017.

Also joining the celebration Tuesday were Bath Housing Executive Director Deb Keller and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Commisioner Heather Johnson.

The Uptown building was designed by Archetype Architects of Portland and is being built by Hebert Construction of Lewiston and Portland.  It is projected to open in early 2024.