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Updated: August 28, 2023

With hotel under construction, Bar Harbor hotelier eyes year-round market

Courtesy / Stephen Coston Bar Harbor hotelier Stephen Coston is part of a partnership that has a 45-room hotel being built in downtown Bar Harbor. The building to the right isn't part of the project.
"Bar Harbor is more than just a beautiful place; we also have great restaurants, galleries, activities, etc. We want to add to that by making sure our properties are more than just another place to stay." - Bar Harbor hotelier Stephen Coston.
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Bar Harbor hotelier Stephen Coston and his business partners — Brian Shaw, Tom St. Germain and Nina St. Germain — are building a 45-room hotel on Cottage Street, the Pathmaker. 

Coston owns or co-owns a number of other hotels, all in the downtown area.

In 2018, he and his parents built Inn on Mount Desert. That was followed by the acquisition, with various levels of renovations, of nine more inns. His most recent purchase, finalized earlier this year, was the Cleftstone Manor Inn a Gilded Age mansion dating back to 1881, now a bed-and-breakfast.

We asked Coston about his latest hotel, the Pathmaker, named in a nod to the area’s extensive hiking trails. Here’s an edited transcript.

Mainebiz: What’s driving this project? 

Stephen Coston: The properties that comprise this project had been vacant for many years, which is unusual in downtown Bar Harbor, so we would always look at them and consider the possibilities. The properties were for sale for a while, so over time we thought about it a little harder. The shape of the properties is a little odd — basically a “T” shape — so we had to configure something functional that also fit the site. Eventually we settled on an idea we felt worked for the site, made an offer, got the necessary approvals — and here we are.

MB: Tell us the property specs.

SC: It is comprised of what had been three parcels — 77 Cottage, 79 Cottage, and 8 Summer. We refer to it as 77 Cottage St. It is three stories of rooms and common space, plus an underground parking level. There are 45 guest rooms. Dining will be open to the public with around 125 seats.

MB: Who’s your architect and contractor? 

SC: Brian Shaw, owner of the local building company Brian D. Shaw Inc., is a partner in the project, so design and construction is handled in-house.

MB: When did you break ground and when do you expect to be up and running? 

SC: We started demolition and site work in October. We do not yet have an opening date but we hope to complete the project sometime in 2023.

MB: What’s the project cost and how are you financing it? 

SC: We are working with the First [Damariscotta-based First National Bank]. As to the budget, we will just say it is undisclosed.

MB: What are you seeing in terms of market potential in the region? 

SC: People love it here. Modern media favors picturesque places like this. This is not a place you visit once and say you’ve 'done' it. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m still finding new ways to enjoy it all the time. Most anyone who lives here will say the very same thing. 

Although there is lots of visitation, even in the middle of August it is not hard to find a quiet spot or a secluded trail, to not really see anybody. Even though the island is comprised of small towns, there is so much to do. We have the right balance in a lot of ways that most places don’t. I think recently we have been able to show people that there is no 'bad' time to visit Bar Harbor, and now the season is much longer than it used to be. 

This property will be the second one of ours — Inn on Mount Desert being the other — where we will go year-round. Most of our properties are open for two months longer each year than they were before we bought them. I think the potential is in continuing to make the community more year-round.

MB: Does the project target a particular market demographic? 

SC: No, not really. The property will have various room configurations suitable for different types of travelers, and everything is intended to be classic in the sense of being universally enjoyable. The property has a great location, will be brand new, will offer on site dining, and will live up to the same high standard of quality, design and hospitality that we have established at our other properties in Bar Harbor. This will be our eleventh property in town, and they are all different, but we don’t look at it from the perspective of, 'This property is for this person, this property is for that person, etc.' We look at it more from the perspective of, 'Whoever you are and whatever is going to make your experience great, we are here to figure that out and give it to you.'

MB: In what way has the region’s lodging market and industry evolved in recent years? 

SC: Bar Harbor has always been a destination that attracts people who enjoy experiencing a unique and spectacular landscape — which is most everyone. The natural beauty of the island continues to bring people here and will continue to do so, but even as visitors are here to experience things outside of the property where they stay, I still think people have come to expect a higher level of service than they did in the past. We enjoy providing the extra attention to detail that people are looking for. 

Bar Harbor is more than just a beautiful place; we also have great restaurants, galleries, activities, etc. We want to add to that by making sure our properties are more than just another place to stay. We aim to be a memorable part of the great experiences that people have here and to be part of the reason they choose to visit again.

MB: How do you see the region’s lodging market and industry shaping up into the future? 

SC: It is the natural course of things that as time goes on expectations continue to rise, and I think the industry will continue to provide better and better experiences. A great deal of creativity is being expressed in improving every aspect to the travel experience. I enjoy the creative aspect of it — trying to think about things that maybe the guest hasn’t even considered, but once you provide it and they experience it, they will never want to go without it. So I think the destination and the services provided will remain fundamentally the same, but get incrementally better.

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May 24, 2023

We always have a great experience at Stephen's properties. They are the only place we stay. Congratulations on the new project!

May 24, 2023

Just the kind of forwarding thinking Maine needs. Bar Harbor can be lovely in January! Looking forward to checking in.

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