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  • Mainebiz Staff

Szanton Co. plans 55-unit mixed-income development in OOB

Originally published on April 9th, 2020, in Mainebiz, by Staff Writers.

The Szanton Co. is proposing to build a 55-unit mixed-income apartment building for older residents on land the developer recently bought in Old Orchard Beach.

The Portland-based company plans the development for nearly five acres behind the Old Orchard Beach Funeral Home, at 36 Portland Ave. Szanton purchased the land from Roger and Mary Tousignant, owners of the funeral home, according to a news release from the developer.

All apartments would be set aside for those aged 55 or older, and roughly 75% of the units would be reserved for households earning below 60% of area median income, while the remaining 25% would be rented at market rate. The building will be called Milliken Heights, in a tip of the hat to the man who first settled the land 310 years ago and whose family was a long-time part of the town's economic development.

If the proposal is approved, an existing parking lot on the site would be expanded and used for resident parking. The funeral home building itself was excluded from the sale and is still in operation.

Construction could begin as early as next spring. Szanton has developed 11 mixed-income apartment buildings throughout southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire since 2004. The company has built nearby in Biddeford and Portland, but never in Old Orchard Beach, according to the release.

Current projects underway include 53-unit 48 Hampshire, in Auburn, slated to open next month, and the 51-unit Furman Block, under construction at 178 Kennebec St. in Portland's West Bayside neighborhood.

Good location, historic spot

The Old Orchard Beach apartment building is planned for the west side of Portland Avenue in the largely wooded area east of Milliken Pond. Approximately three acres would be retained as woods.

The site is just north of the town hall, at the intersection of Saco Avenue and Old Orchard Street, and near the town's largest concentration of restaurants, on Old Orchard Street.

“We’re thrilled about the location,” said Szanton Co. President Nathan Szanton. “It’s in the heart of town, just steps from a grocery store, post office, pharmacy, bank, hardware store and library. The beach is a little further, but still less than a 10-minute walk.”

Town officials said the apartments would provide much-needed housing in a time of rising rents and short-term rentals.

“Finding year-round, affordable rental housing is very difficult in OOB because so many properties are rented seasonally between May and September,” said Town Manager Larry Mead in the release. “That’s what makes this project so appealing.”

The town’s population of less than 10,000 can swell to over 35,000 in the summer, according to Mead.

Roger Tousignant continues to operate the funeral home, which he founded in 1961. “We were pleased to sell the land to The Szanton Co. because we know their development will enhance the community,” he said.

The building’s name comes from the Milliken family, which shaped much of Old Orchard Beach’s economic history, particularly when tourism played a smaller role, according to the release. John Milliken settled in the area in 1710, and his descendants were entrepreneurs in ice trading and lumber production, beginning in the 19th century.

Nearby Milliken Pond, now the site of Paradise Park Resort Campground, was used by the Millikens to harvest ice. Two miles north, Mill Brook powered the family lumber mill, which employed 140 workers at its peak. Neither business survived beyond the Great Depression of the 1930s.



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