WATERVILLE — Allen Mitchell has been building a bell house for the former St. Francis Church bell on property that is quickly becoming housing for seniors with low incomes.
Construction the 40-unit housing complex on Elm Street, expected to be completed in July, is well underway and the bell house is just a small part of it.
The three-story 34,071-square-foot St. Francis Apartments building is being built on the site of the former church, parish hall and rectory, which were razed last year.
Mitchell, of Dicon, a construction company owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, is clerk of the works for the project.
The 1872 bell by Troy Bell Co. is just one of several items from the church to be incorporated into the $5 million project.
The gold-colored, cast iron statue of St. Francis that graced the front of the church will be placed on the site, as will stained glass windows, according to Mike Hebert, facilities manager for Corpus Christi Parish, of which St. Francis de Sales Church was a part.
“Five of the stained glass windows are going into this new building and will be visible from the outside and will be back-lit from the inside,” Hebert said Wednesday. “They will be lit up at night.”
Woodwork from inside the former church also will be used in the building.
“Anybody that’s familiar with St. Francis, when they walk into the lobby, they’ll recognize it,” Hebert said. “It should be really something.”
He said many people have expressed interest in living in the complex.
“At this point, if everybody that is interested qualified, this place would be full,” he said.
Those 62 and older who qualify under U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards are eligible to apply for tenancy.
St. Francis Apartments Inc., a nonprofit company, will operate the residence with a board of directors, according to Hebert.
St. Francis is keeping a list of names and addresses of those who have expressed interest in renting apartments. When the project nears completion, applications will be mailed to those on the list and they will all be mailed on the same day, Hebert said.
“It will be on a first-come, first-served basis for those that qualify, financially and otherwise,” he said.
Zachau Construction Inc., of Freeport, is the general contractor for the project. The building was designed by CWS Architects, of Portland.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland applied to HUD for funding for the project, but the only involvement the diocese will have after it is completed is overseeing the operation through a board of incorporators, he said. The bishop and other diocese officials will sit on the board, according to Hebert.
The framing is completed on the new building, plywood is being placed on the roof, and work is being done to the inside, Mitchell said. He said the work has been made difficult by snow and cold weather.
“They’ve shoveled this roof off about a half-dozen times at least, and they’ve shoveled the upper floors out,” he said.
He and Hebert said the building is being built in a way that allows 18 more units to be added if federal funding allows.
“All the conduit, sewer lines, heating lines, water lines — all that stuff is being done in this building so that when we connect 18 units to it, it’s all ready to go,” Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, Hebert said anyone interested in applying for an apartment should contact Harland Cooper at Seton Village, another diocese-sponsored housing complex, on Carver Street, south of Kennedy Memorial Drive.
St. Francis Church was for sale about four years and attracted no buyers before a decision was made to demolish it. Corpus Christi officials said at the time that the decision was driven by a shortage of priests, high heating costs and the cost of plowing and sanding. The cost to maintain the church was $40,000 to $50,000 a year. The diocese’s Bureau of Housing bought the property from the parish and got the mortgage through HUD.
The 21,388-square-foot church, built for the growing Catholic population in Waterville, was completed in 1874.