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January 6, 2017

Bath seeks proposals to develop vacant property in 'iconic downtown'

Courtesy of City of Bath
Courtesy of City of Bath
An aerial view and a view from the ground show the vacant 0.58 acre lot in downtown Bath that the city hopes will be purchased and developed. An RFP went out this week and has a Feb. 14 deadline.
Courtesy of City of Bath
A view of the lot where the Bath YMCA formerly stood for 100 years before being demolished in 2012.

The city of Bath is seeking proposals from qualified firms and developers to purchase and develop a vacant downtown property that for almost 100 years was the site of the Bath YMCA. When the Y moved to a new facility, the city acquired the property and, in 2012, demolished the building because it was in extreme disrepair.

The property sits across from the Patten Free Library and City Park and essentially anchors the west end of the city's downtown district along Front Street.

Proposals must be received by Feb. 14 for the 0.58-acre site, which is zoned "downtown commercial" with a wide variety of uses being allowed. The parcel is within the city's historic district and any proposal would require architectural review.

Scott LaFlamme, the city's director of economic development, described the property in the city's RFP as a "tremendous and rare opportunity to invest in Bath's iconic downtown."

"This is really an exciting project for us," LaFlamme told Mainebiz. "It's so rare to have a developable property [be available] in the downtown."

LaFlamme said the city is in the midst of a building boom, with $120 million in private development in the last four years, including the 93-unit Hampton Inn that's located within walking distance of the vacant parcel at 26 Summer St. Other new development includes the 86-unit Residence Inn by Marriott on U.S. Route 1 and a $20 million condominium project on the Kennebec River waterfront on the former "Coal Pocket" property.

LaFlamme said the building site offers "a perfect unobstructed view of the river" and a streetscape view that includes the downtown district and the Bath Iron Works shipyard as a distant backdrop.

"I think it's a really unique piece of property that should garner a lot of attention," LaFlamme said, noting that the city of 8,500 gets more than double that number each day in traffic from visitors and employees of Bath Iron Works and other businesses located in the city.

Bath's downtown garners recognition

The city's downtown is supported by Main Street Bath, a local nonprofit that puts on more than a dozen events to showcase the downtown, including the annual Heritage Days celebration in July that spans three days and typically brings more than 20,000 visitors to the city. In 2012 it was one of five organizations across the country to receive the 2012 Great American Main Street Award.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation also honored Bath in 2005 as one of its "Dozen Distinctive Destinations," describing the city as "an old seafaring town that has reinvented itself as one of the best small cities in America."

In 2015 downtown Bath ranked 29th in the Best Choice Reviews' "50 Best Small Downtowns in America" list. It also has been named to Travel & Leisure's America's Greatest Main Street List.

City outlines 'desired uses'

In its six-page RFP, the city identifies its goals for the site as well as several general desired uses.

Among the goals: "Create sustainable housing options that are consistent with the Bath Area Housing Needs Assessment" and "Increase downtown vibrancy through new and exciting ventures."

Desired uses include a mix of residences, retail and office space.

LaFlamme said proposals will be reviewed by the Bath City Council and other city officials after the Feb. 14 deadline.

Additional information on the RFP scope and proposal guidelines can be obtained by contacting LaFlamme at 207-443-8372 or by email at slaflamme@cityofbath.com

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