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June 21, 2024

Site work begins at YWCA housing project in Bar Harbor

Aerial view of structures amidst woods and fields with a bay in the background. Photo / COURTESY, SWAN AGENCY REAL ESTATE The YWCA of Mount Desert Island bought a 27-acre tract of land in Bar Harbor last year and has begun site work for a project to include affordable rental housing and other potential uses.

After acquiring 27 acres of land last year, the YWCA of Mount Desert Island has begun site work for its project of creating affordable rental housing.

The first of two houses at the former Hamilton Station property was demolished and the second is scheduled to come down shortly. The demolition is part of the early plan to prepare the site for the year-round rental housing the YWCA plans to eventually build.  

“There was hope early on that the houses could be saved and renovated, but severe mold issues and deferred maintenance made that impossible,” said Jackie Davidson, the organization’s executive director.

The tract of land is at 891 State Highway 3, in a village of Bar Harbor called Salisbury Cove. The tract is known locally as Hamilton Station and it once belonged to the Jackson Laboratory, a Bar Harbor-based biomedical research institute.

The parcel, acquired in an off-market deal, included two big red barns, a farmhouse and a caretaker’s cottage.

A red barn sits in a field.
The current goal is to keep the barns to maintain a sense of place and history at the site.

While the primary focus is on creating affordable rental housing, the Y is referring to the project as mixed-use because it’s going to look into additional potential tenants, such as a day care facility. 

Since the purchase, the Y’s Hamilton Station steering committee has been working with a team of professionals on formulating a plan to meet the need for year-round rental housing on Mount Desert Island, according to a news release.

The committee and consultants are reviewing all aspects of the project, including concerns such as water, sewer, lot coverage and building costs. There have been several meetings with the town to prepare for a site plan review at the planning board’s meeting in July.

“One of the most important things to the YW is that an array of community members needs are met,” said Allie Bodge, who chairs the steering committee. “Our dream is that the renters have a great sense of neighborhood with community gardens and walking trails that will also be open to the public.”

The Y purchased the property after looking for some time, as it discussed how to address the area’s affordable housing crisis for year-round residents.

“We started thinking small,” said Ann Worrick, the YWCA’s board president. “Originally we were thinking of purchasing an existing two- to three-unit building and making it available to year-round people who did not qualify for subsidized housing but who did not earn enough to purchase a home in the escalating market.”

That group is referred to as the “missing middle” in housing discussions, she noted. 

“Suddenly we had the opportunity to make a much larger and impactful statement with the purchase of Hamilton Station and the board embraced it and all agreed it was time,” Worrick said.

The YWCA said it is working to set up gatherings with neighbors and interested parties at the property later this summer to answer questions after the initial plans and drawings are complete. The current goal is to keep the barns to maintain a sense of place and history at the site.

The Y has had a presence in downtown Bar Harbor since 1913. The facility offers a variety of children’s and community programs as well as summertime dormitory-style accommodations — with a communal kitchen, bathroom and common spaces — for women. 

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