Two projects proposed in Bath at former YMCA lot

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday heard two redevelopment proposals for the vacant former YMCA lot at 26 Summer St.

The Newheight Group of Portland presented one option, in conjunction with Portland-based Community Housing of Maine.

Portland-based Szanton Co. – which is redeveloping the former John E.L. Huse School into 59 mixed-income apartments – has partnered with the Bath Housing organization to present the second proposal.

Szanton proposes a mixed-income rental housing project with a three-story brick facade that would face Summer Street and contain between 42-49 apartments. The building would step up to four stories farther back from the road, and the site’s lower portion – accessed from Elm Street – would offer parking and driveway access.

“Our proposed project would help meet a deep and longstanding need for quality housing at an affordable price in a location that is plugged into the services and amenities of downtown Bath,” the project narrative states. “The 2015 Bath Area Housing Assessment highlighted the need for housing that is energy-efficient, affordable across the spectrum of income levels, and accessible to citizens of all ages – and this proposed project would meet that need.”

Monthly rents could range between $670 for a one-bedroom apartment at 50 percent of the area median income, to $1,050 for a two-bedroom market rate apartment.

The project could be funded through MaineHousing affordable housing tax credits, MaineHousing subsidies and debt or mortgage, and Community Development Block Grant funds from the state, allocated through the city. The proposal also mentions the possibility of obtaining tax relief through a tax increment financing/credit enhancement agreement, which “would refund to the project a portion of the new tax revenue for a period of time,” according to the narrative.

“MaineHousing incentivizes this type of tax relief by awarding points in the highly competitive allocation process, so a TIF for 26 Summer St. would vastly increase the chances of getting the project built,” the proposal adds.

Jess Irish, director of Bath Housing, told the City Council, “We’re currently experiencing waits for between two and three years” for housing.

Szanton proposes to have eight to 10 parking spaces on site, with shared parking in other city lots, where apartment dwellers would tend just to use the lots at night. Facilitating all parking on the former YMCA site could cost $1 million, driving down the affordability of the project, developer Nathan Szanton told the council.

Still, some concern was expressed at the meeting about facilitating off-site parking at times such as snowstorms, when people parked at city lots would have to locate their vehicles elsewhere.

The NewHeight proposal calls for mixed-use development that would contain market rate housing as well as commercial/retail space.

“NewHeight Group is proposing 20 to 30 residential condominiums above structured parking of one or two levels, with a commercial use fronting Summer Street, and another full level of commercial/recreational space in a single structure,” an April 24 memo from the organization states. “The building will present an attractive three-story facade facing Summer Street, with step-backs at the fourth and fifth floors.”

The condos would be between approximately 700 to 1,200 square feet, and priced between around $250,000 to more than $400,000, with most units at the lower end of the range.

“NewHeight Group continues to investigate potential uses for the commercial space, with a goal of creating an important community hub,” the memo notes.

One level of parking would be accessed from Elm Street, and the other from Summer Street.

The building would rise higher than the neighboring Moses Block, providing views of key city features, such as the Kennebec River, Library Park and downtown, according to Tom Federle, principal of NewHeight Group.

The structure could house 20-30 condos, he said, with the site holding about 40 parking spaces.

The development would “add value to the City in this location both by increasing the tax base and by bringing desired market rate housing options into this urban core,” NewHeight stated, adding that the commercial uses would draw more pedestrian traffic downtown.

The city tore down the YMCA building – also the former home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark – in January 2012. The half-acre lot sits across the street from the Patten Free Library, and is in the Downtown Commercial zone.

Residences, professional and corporate offices, and businesses such as restaurants and ice cream parlors were among desired uses mentioned in the city’s six-page request for proposals.

“I am so thrilled that we have two amazing proposals here tonight,” Council Chairwoman Mari Eosco said following the presentations. “It’s exciting … to have developers coming in.”

The panel was scheduled to discuss financial details such as proposed purchase prices in executive session following the meeting. Wednesday’s meeting marked a step in an ongoing process, City Manager Bill Giroux said.

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

The Bath City Council on Wednesday heard two proposals for redevelopment of the old YMCA property at 26 Summer St.

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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.