The project will bring approximately 15 students and a guest or faculty member to live downtown, but it will be more than a simple space to house students, said COA President Darron Collins.
“The center will be a catalyst for deepening COA’s mission to add to the cultural, intellectual, and economic vitality of Mount Desert Island, while supporting MD365’s mission of promoting the long-term economic vitality of the town of Mount Desert,” Collins said.
MD365 acquired the property recently and has entered into a long-term land lease with the college. The property has been vacant since 2008, when the Joy Building came down with two adjacent structures as a result of a fire.
Architect John Gordon, who will design the new building, said that energy concerns would be of paramount importance.
“Our primary goal is for the new building to present a traditional facade that will be a comfortable fit on Main Street in downtown Northeast Harbor,” Gordon said. “In keeping with COA’s long tradition of being a vanguard of sustainability, this building’s energy performance and low-carbon goals will be at the forefront when compared to other similar buildings in this climate.”
The center will house primarily older COA students who have demonstrated a commitment to leadership and subject matter expertise, Collins said. The school will explore partnerships with organizations like Mount Desert Elementary School, MD365, and the Maine Seacoast Mission to maximize student integration and benefit to the Mount Desert community.
Center goals also include engaging students and faculty with research and academic work in Mount Desert, offering clean energy solutions through the COA Community Energy Center, hosting events and talks in the town, and eventually establishing a presence in the Northeast Harbor marina by keeping one of the college’s three research vessels on a slip there.
Mount Desert 365 is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vitality in the town of Mount Desert through expansion of sustainable year-round residential communities and economic revitalization of commercial districts. The nonprofit, formed in 2017, owns a number of commercial and residential lots in Northeast Harbor where they intend to offer affordable year-round commercial space, apartments, or homeownership in a shared-equity, land-lease model.
Later this year the Maine Seacoast Mission will move its administrative offices into a new building under construction in Northeast Harbor, bringing ten new year-round positions into the community.