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June 6, 2024

UMPI selling Houlton Center to nonprofit, but says educational mission will continue

Courtesy / UMPI The Houlton Higher Education Center, at 18 Military St., has hosted public university classes and community education programs since 2001. The building was formerly a Shop 'n Save grocery store, which was donated by Hannaford Bros. and renovated at a cost of $2 million in state funds.

A sale of the Houlton Higher Education Center is in the works, with a local nonprofit, Community Living Association, agreeing to purchase the 15,500-square-foot building for $525,000.

The deal is being finalized, and the center's owner, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, expects the sale to be completed by July 1.

The Houlton Center has hosted public university classes and community programs since 2001. But with the explosion of online learning in recent years, the satellite branch has been losing money.

Most of the space is unused, deficits have been increasing, and last year UMPI said it was looking to sell or transfer the property at 18 Military St. In January, that plan received approval from the University of Maine System, which had final say in the matter.

In a news release this week, UMPI said the purchase will allow the school to maintain a presence in the building while simultaneously decreasing its property footprint.

“We are very pleased to have found such a willing partner to serve as the new owner of this building,” UMPI President Ray Rice said.

“In addition to its own operations, CLA is committed to ensuring that the building continues to house and provide educational and community offerings, and that includes providing space so UMPI can deliver classes and other educational opportunities to the southern Aroostook region as it has for many decades.”

Community Living Association assists adults with intellectual disabilities, and is currently based at 45 School St. in Houlton, less than a half-mile from the center.

The organization's executive director, Rob Moran, said, “The acquisition of the Houlton Higher Education Center affords us additional administration, conference and classroom space to meet our operational needs.

"We believe the Houlton Center is the perfect location, size and environment in which to continue the successful operation of our agency.”

Community Living Association said it will work with existing tenants to allow them some space at the center, and also plans to host outside meetings, events, cultural exhibits and artistic displays in the main lobby.

UMPI will pay $1 a year to rent a 3,240-square-foot space for classrooms, office and a computer lab. The space will also be used to house TRIO College Access Services and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and to provide class space when available for other educational partners, such as the University of Maine at Augusta and Northern Maine Community College.

The sale carves out a 260-square-foot space for state-owned technology and equipment, which provides internet connectivity for educational institutions across northern and eastern Maine.

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