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Updated: June 2, 2020

Szanton Co. plans 50 apartments at former Bath YMCA site

Image / Archetype Architects A rendering of The Uptown, a proposed 50-unit mixed income project in Bath proposed by Szanton Co. The rendering shows the Summer Street side of the development, which will be on the corner of Summer and Front streets.

The Szanton Co. is proposing to add 50 apartments in downtown Bath, on the site of the former YMCA and in two adjacent historic buildings.

The company bought the half-acre vacant lot at 26 Summer St. where the Y once stood from the city in September 2019.

Szanton also proposes to buy the Moses Block, next door at 24 Summer St., and the Columbia Block at 168-194 Front St., from the Bath Housing Development Corp. The new building would have 46 apartments; another four would be built in vacant space in the Columbia Block and 10 existing apartments in the two buildings will be renovated.

Both buildings date back to 1867, though the Columbia Block was largely rebuilt after an 1893 fire. They were designed by Portland architect John Calvin Stevens. The Columbia Block also housed the YMCA, which expanded to the 26 Summer St. site in 1962. BHDC has signed an agreement to sell the buildings to the Szanton Co. when financing for the project is lined up.  

If approvals and financing fall into place, construction is expected to begin in summer 2021.

“We’re excited about revitalizing an important part of Bath’s historic downtown,” said Nathan Szanton, Szanton Co.'s president. “Our project aims to do three things: rebuild the streetscape along Summer Street; provide high-quality housing for a variety of incomes in Bath and bring 26 Summer St. onto the tax rolls.”  

It would be the company's second project in the city. In 2017, Szanton redeveloped the former John E.L. Huse Memorial School into 59 apartments. The project was named one of the 2017 top 10 developments in the state by the Maine Real Estate and Development Association.

Szanton plans to keep all tenants in place in the Moses and Columbia buildings, renovating and modernizing the apartments and completing a historic renovation of the exteriors. Four new loft-style apartments would be added in a vacant portion of the Columbia Block.

The project proposes a rehab of the historic YMCA gym, in the Columbia building, bringing it back to its original design and creating a community amenity for the residents of the project, as a community and fitness center.

It will be known as 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, when the Y closed at the site and moved to 303 Centre St.

The majority of the new apartments would be set aside for households age 55 or greater, the release said. Roughly 70% would be reserved for households earning $25,000 to $38,000 a year (roughly $13.50-18.25 an hour for a full-time worker) with rents ranging from $690 to $890 a month for a one-bedroom unit. The incomes and rates are set annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for projects that use low-income tax credits. The remaining 30% of the units would be rented at market rates, without limits to tenant incomes.

All of the 46 apartments in the new building at 26 Summer St. would be fully accessible by elevator. An indoor connector would be built between the Front Street buildings and the new construction wing on Summer Street.

Adding to downtown, freeing up housing

The site is across Front Street from Brackett’s Market, and across Summer Street from Patten Free Library. Pedestrian access 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 also secured 33 additional off-street parking spaces in a lot on the northeast corner of Summer and Front streets.

Szanton Co. officials said the development will have the added benefit of helping free up other housing stock for young families.

“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 Co. vice president and project manager. “When they move to this project, it will free up single-family homes in Bath for younger families.”

The six commercial spaces in the Moses and Columbia blocks, at 168 through 194 Front St., include a portion of Lisa Marie's Made in Maine; Loyal Biscuit Co; J'Adore Consignment; Open Door Books; the Mala Room; and the Library Book Store.

Cullen is also excited about the potential of the project to add vitality to 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 Bath Housing Development Corp. bought the Moses and Columbia blocks in May 2019 "to facilitate the preservation of the character of downtown Bath, encourage economic stimulus in the walkable central core, and maintain rental housing at modest prices for those that live and work in Bath," the agency said.

The agency says on its website the goal for the buildings is to preserve the 10 existing rental apartments as modestly priced housing, maintain the ground-level retail with the existing tenants, maximize the parking lot to help relieve downown parking pressure and conduct an initial round of improvements designed to make the building safer and healthier, while honoring the historic character of the buildings.

An asbestos remediation contract for both buildings was awarded in April to RJ Enterprises, of Brunswick. The project is partially funded by a grant from the Midcoast Economic Development District, a recipient of a Brownfields Cleanup revolving loan fund capitalization grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Szanton Co. has developed 10 mixed-income apartment buildings in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire since 2004. The company announced a 55-unit mixed-income apartment development in Old Orchard Beach that could break ground as early as next spring.

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