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October 19, 2018

Northeast Harbor undertakes $3.9M Main Street revitalization project

The village of Northeast Harbor, which is part of the town of Mount Desert, is proceeding with an almost $4 million plan to revitalize its downtown district.

The Mount Desert Islander reported the plan's aim is to improve "the appearance, functionality and vitality of the Main Street area." Voters at their May town meeting authorized the town to borrow up to $3.96 million for the project.

At a recent board of selectmen meeting, the decision was made to bury utility lines along one side of the street instead of along both sides as originally planned, to cause less disruption along the street. The plan includes building a sidewalk on the east side of the street, widening the sidewalk on the west side and enlarging the town-owned parking lot at the north end of the street.

According to town documents, work could begin within the next few months, but would stop in May 2019 to accommodate the tourist season.

Northeast Harbor's narrow Main Street is lined by shops, eateries and galleries popular with tourists and yachters. It leads to a maze of residential neighborhoods whose perimeter follows the shore of the harbor and Somes Sound.

A decade of rebuilding

The village was struck by two devastating fires a decade ago. In 2008, fire destroyed three buildings on Main Street, including street-level commercial enterprises — the Wingspread Gallery, Colonel's Deli and the Joy Building — and upper-story, affordable residences.

A 2009 blaze destroyed a fourth Main Street commercial building that contained The Tan Turtle, a seasonal restaurant, and upstairs housing.

The events coincided with the early years of the recession, which stalled the discretionary spending on which tourist communities depend. The Colonel's owners rebuilt and was back in business by summer 2009.

Since then, summer and year-round communities have been working together to revitalize the community. Situated near Acadia National Park, it depends on tourists to patronize galleries, restaurants, music venues and other cultural offerings.

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