NORTHEAST HARBOR — College of the Atlantic’s new student housing building, which includes retail space, opened last Thursday at 141 Main St. in Northeast Harbor.
The COA Mount Desert Center has living space for 15 students – some of whom started moving in late last week – a staff/faculty apartment and, at sidewalk level, the Salt Market, a project of 2015 COA graduate Maude Kusserow.
Salt Market is “an island kitchen collective,” Kusserow said, featuring local produce, flowers and bread, prepared foods and soups, artisan goods and specialty coffee drinks made with an Italian La Marzocco espresso machine.
“We have so many beautiful places here on Mount Desert Island and so many beautiful products,” Kusserow said. “Salt Market is about honoring this place and bringing together our wonderful community around good, sustainable food and amazing coffee.”
In February 2021, the Mount Desert Planning Board approved COA’s application for a conditional use permit, which allowed construction to begin. But because there were to be only three on-site parking spaces, the board stipulated that a certificate of occupancy would not be issued until COA secured the lease or other long-term use of seven privately owned parking spaces in town.
The town’s code enforcement officer issued that certificate of occupancy last Wednesday after COA acquired off-street parking spaces at St. Ignatius Church on Lookout Way, which is a few blocks from Main Street.
Architect John Gordon of Bucksport designed the new COA building to blend in with the prevailing style of Northeast Harbor’s Main Street. E.L Shea Inc. of Ellsworth was the general contractor.
COA officials said the construction cost was within the $2.5 million budget. Funding for the project came from COA’s Broad Reach Capital Campaign, a $57 million fundraising effort that wrapped up last year.
The COA Mount Desert Center is the result of a partnership between COA and Mount Desert 365, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vitality in the town of Mount Desert. MD365 owns the land the building sits on, and COA holds a long-term lease.
“Our mission is to revitalize the community, and that means having more people living and working here year-round,” said MD365 Executive Director Kathy Miller. “Having 15 students here will fill that gap for starters. I know the college genuinely wants these students to become engaged in the community, and that has great possibilities.”
As part of the partnership with MD365, the students living in Northeast Harbor will engage with local organizations in exchange for reduced rent.
“It is really exciting to have a mission-driven footprint that helps us meet student housing needs and, at the same time, helps bring more of a year-round community to Northeast Harbor,” COA President Darron Collins said. “Our work in the town of Mount Desert harkens back to our original mission of using a year-round educational enterprise to help revitalize a community.”
The building is in keeping with COA’s environmental principles and includes a number of sustainability-oriented features such as Gutex wood fiberboard insulation, rooftop solar panels and electric heat pumps. The building has an extremely tight envelope and heat-capturing ventilation for fresh air.