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September 16, 2021

COA spends $4.5M for Bar Harbor student housing

houses and lawns Courtesy / College of the Atlantic College of the Atlantic bought nine properties with 31 bedrooms in Bar Harbor as permanent housing for 40 students.

In a bid to tackle the tight affordable housing market in Bar Harbor, College of the Atlantic has purchased two residential complexes just outside of the downtown area for a total of $4,559,249.

The acquisition secures housing for nearly 40 students for the private college, according to a news release.

The two complexes are at the intersection of Glen Mary Road and Norris Avenue, and on Bloomfield Avenue. 

The nine properties, with a total of 31 bedrooms, have been rented to COA students for the academic year for many years, so they don’t increase the amount of housing available to students, but do secure what’s there into the future.

“With the increasing housing crunch in Bar Harbor and the difficulty our students face trying to find rentals, this was an opportunity we felt we could not pass up,” the college’s president, Darron Collins, said in the release.

The purchase price for properties at 48 Glen Mary Road and 12, 14, 16a, 16b, 18a and 18b Norris Avenue totals $2,959,250. 

The purchase price for a complex called Summertime, which comprises four units at 1 Bloomfield Ave., totals $1,599,999. 

The properties will remain on the tax rolls.

Students have traditionally rented at both sets of properties, but have often had to wait until mid-September to move in, because the properties have been rented short-term during the summer. With college ownership, students renting the properties can move in before the school year opens and stay through the end.

More housing plans

The purchases come amid a bigger push at the college to expand student housing. 

Based on a $5 million allocation from the school’s recent Broad Reach capital campaign, plans are being drawn up for an on-campus residence hall with close to 50 beds. 

The college purchased six condo units at 111 Eden St., Bar Harbor, in 2019.

This year, the college broke ground on the COA Mount Desert Center on Main Street in downtown Northeast Harbor. The building will have year-round apartments for up to 15 students and a place for a faculty member and their family, along with storefront commercial space.

COA houses nearly half of its students on campus and has traditionally leaned toward having second- and third-year students live independently in the surrounding towns. However, changes to the housing market over the past decade and especially in recent years have made this impracticable, Collins said.

As vacation rentals have spiked in recent years, Bar Harbor has been grappling with a shortage of affordable, year-round housing.

Other organizations in Bar Harbor and elsewhere on Mount Desert Island, including Jackson Laboratory and Island Housing Trust, have affordable housing projects in the pipeline.

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