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April 19, 2019

College of the Atlantic buys condos for use by students and visitors

College of the Atlantic Courtesy / Yoichiro Ashida/COA College of the Atlantic purchased six condominium units at 111 Eden St. in Bar Harbor for $2.2 million to serve as much-needed student rentals.

College of the Atlantic, a small private college in Bar Harbor, bought six condominium units at 111 Eden St., for $2.2 million.

Located just north of the college campus, the condo complex, on .74 acre, was formerly known as Bayview Townhouses.

The transaction closed mid-April.

The school will engage with a property management company to manage rentals of the apartments to students, visitors and guests during the school year, and to continue to offer vacation rentals during the summer tourist season when school is not in session, according to a news release.

“Our students are facing an increasingly difficult time finding adequate rentals,” college spokesperson Rob Levin said in the release. “The changes to the Bar Harbor housing market over the last few years have hit renters especially hard.”

The change in ownership will have no effect on the town’s property tax revenue from the property.

The seller was Kennebec Cottage Associates LLC, which is owned by Kim Swan. Swan, of Bar Harbor, is owner of the Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty. In an off-market sale that closed in early November, Swan purchased the Bayview Hotel, an oceanfront property that included the six townhouses plus a 26-room hotel. In early April, she announced plans to sell the townhouses.

Off-campus housing

Levin told Mainebiz the college paid for the property with money raised through donors.

“The purchase was presented to us as an opportunity,” he said. “It’s close to campus.”

Levin explained that students getting ready to start school in late August and early September often can’t find a place to rent until a month or two later.

“Our students are in the same boat as anyone else looking for a rental in town,” he said. “It’s become difficult.”

The college houses 45% of its students on campus. 

“That model has worked for the college for a long time,” he said. “But in the last few years we’ve become more and more aware of the changing rental market. This doesn’t solve the problem all together, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Each of the six units can house four to five students.

Enrollment is capped at 350, and the college is in the 325 to 350 range now. 

“Our enrollment has been steadily growing,” he said. 

Terms of the rentals are still to be worked out. The townhouses are already well set up and more or less ready to go as vacation rentals this summer, followed by student rentals in the fall.

The college is exploring other housing options, including building on-campus housing, Levin said.

The town of Bar Harbor is grappling with the growing conversion of housing units into lucrative vacation rentals.

Town council said there were 79 new vacation rental registrations in Bar Harbor last year, a 295% increase over 2017. The council and others have lined the surge in vacation rentals to a decline in year-round affordable housing.

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