Mixed-income housing takes shape at former Bath school

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BATH — Renovation and expansion of the former John E.L. Huse Memorial School is about 35 percent complete, with apartments slated for occupancy in July 2017.

Portland-based Szanton Co., which began work on the property after acquiring the 39 Andrews Road building in August, is developing 59 mixed-income apartments, nearly half of which are in a new northeast wing.

The brick siding of the original 1942 section of the building is being maintained due to its historic significance, as determined by the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places.

“The ’42 portion will look much like it was originally built … and designed by Alonzo Harriman, a native of Bath,” Project Manager Andy Jackson said during a Dec. 21 tour.

The vinyl siding of a 1949 addition is being replaced with scored stucco. The new wing will have brick on the front, with window spacing similar to the 1942 section – “a tip of the hat to the original construction” – and cement clapboards on the back, Jackson said.

“The portions are designed so that the ’42 is the most prominent, and the new wing fades off,” he explained. “… It’s going to have a little bit lower ceiling heights, and it’s designed to not compete as much with the original.”

Szanton hopes to have a model unit ready for viewing by March, when the company will begin leasing.

“We want to give our leasing agents (time) to drum up the interest, put the word out,” Jackson said. Once his company has a certificate of occupancy from the city, he hopes to start moving tenants in immediately.

The property has been subdivided into a municipal band building and ball fields, which the city will retain and the 2.49-acre Huse School lot, which Szanton owns.

The complex will house 16 market-rate apartments, as well as 43 units reserved for households that earn at or below 60 percent of the area median income. There will be 48 one-bedroom, six two-bedroom, and five studio apartments.

Much of the cafeteria will be converted into four units, with the stage preserved as a community space.

The school was built by the federal government as a means of attracting shipbuilders to the area in order to boost the Navy’s production of ships at Bath Iron Works during World War II. The 1949 addition increased the size of the building to more than 33,000 square fee, and the new wing will add another 30,000.

The building had always been owned by the city, and was occupied by the Regional School Unit 1 central office until 2010.

Despite its future as a residential building, many artifacts will be on display from the years the structure housed a school, such as a scoreboard, clocks, intercom speakers and chalk boards.

“Obviously it’ll be apartments, but it’ll have a lot of the vibe of the old school,” Jackson said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Andy Jackson, a project manager with the Szanton Co. of Portland, shows off the new wing being added the former Huse School in Bath, as part of a rental housing project.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.