Portland developer eyes former Bath school for rental housing

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BATH — The next use of the John E.L. Huse Memorial School – which was occupied by the Regional School Unit 1 central office until 2010 – could be mixed-income rental housing.

While the City Council voted last April to sell the 39 Andrews Road building for senior assisted living, that deal fell through, and the property is still on the market for $175,000.

“The timing didn’t work out for them or for us,” City Planner Andrew Deci said last week.

Now the Portland-based Szanton Co., which develops mixed-income housing, is interested in converting the former school to rental housing. The company was scheduled to present its plan to the community and hear input at a meeting Thursday, Jan. 15, at the Donald Small School Auditorium.

“Responsible developers oftentimes go out to the community for their thoughts on a project before they start the permitting process,” Deci said.

The company and city have not signed a contract, nor has the company applied to the city for any permits, the planner added.

Szanton, according to a flier the company released prior to the meeting, would like to “renovate the Huse School to its original architecture, with new windows and energy-efficient construction.”

The building, built in 1941 with an addition in 1949, has more than 33,000 square feet of space. It has always been owned by the city.

Szanton’s project would house 55 mostly one-bedroom apartments, in both the existing structure and a new wing.

About 25 percent of the units would be rented at market rate, while the rest would be income-restricted. A household of two that earns up to $28,550 annually would be able to rent a one-bedroom unit at $669 a month, which includes heat and hot water, according to Szanton, which noted the housing would not be a Section 8 project.

“We manage all of our units with our in-house management company and take pride in hands-on supervision to ensure the best quality buildings for our residents and neighbors,” the company said. It has developed six buildings in Maine and New Hampshire, with more than 250 rental units, according to its website.

Nathan Szanton, managing principal of the company, on Monday called Bath “a beautiful city” and praised its economic trends. He said it has a need for mixed-income rental housing.

The City Council may be asked to discuss a sale early next month, Szanton said, adding that “this public neighborhood meeting is part of our attempt to understand the site,” gauge residents’ level of support for the idea, and discuss matters like parking and access to the building.

“We’d also like to … get (neighbors’) feedback, and see if they have any thoughts or ideas about the project, and how we’ve laid it out,” Szanton said. “… It’s always a good learning experience for a developer to meet with neighbors.”

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

Sidebar Elements


The John E.L. Huse Memorial School in Bath would become a mixed-income rental project if the city agrees to sell the property to the Portland-based Szanton Co.

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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.