Jackson Laboratory’s long-term plans are detailed

BAR HARBOR — Despite recent growth in The Jackson Laboratory’s California and Connecticut facilities, leaders in the organization will continue to keep Bar Harbor as their headquarters, Facilities Director John Fitzpatrick told the town Planning Board Nov. 4.

Activities here may shift over time, though, with less focus on mouse production for sale to other institutions and more on research and education activities.

Fitzpatrick presented a preview of development projects the lab may bring to the board in the coming months and years. He is a member of the board himself and was recused from the meeting in order to make the presentation.

The goals of the 10-year zoning project, Fitzpatrick said, are to accommodate significant growth in the organization’s research and education programs and provide more housing for researchers and employees while avoiding any negative impacts to the town or to Acadia National Park. The lab currently owns about 100 acres of land bounded by Acadia National Park, Route 3 and Schooner Head Road, he said. As the institution expands, officials hope to “keep everything compact rather than building out like a spider.”

In total, the new buildings envisioned in the 10-year plan include 340,000 square feet of space including two new research blocks, core operations, research animal facilities expansion and a course and conference center. A fraction of that work is expected to come before the Planning Board for review in 2016, Fitzpatrick said.

The former Ocean Drive dairy bar was demolished earlier this year and is slated to be kept as green space. At the other end of the campus, the area around the Frederick Savage-designed 1904 Callendar House cottage on Schooner Head Road may become a CEO retreat area. “The idea would be to gather thought leaders in health care, biotech and insurance, no more than 30 people for several days at a time, in a hotel suite-type apartment,” Fitzpatrick said.

He said the lab hopes to partner with local businesses to support foodservice and other needs. “We don’t plan on going into the hospitality business; that’s not our forte,” he said.

The lab is currently using its Ellsworth facility, the former Lowe’s store, as a staging and storage area. But they plan to begin mouse production operations there in a few years. “Our timing to get into Ellsworth is to start having operations in the facility early 2018. So until we get that built up, we won’t be able to move anything out of [Bar Harbor],” he said. Some of the Ellsworth facility also may be used for administrative office space.

More parking will be needed at the Bar Harbor campus as activities expand, he said. But officials hope it will not be necessary to flatten and pave any additional land. The plan includes future structured parking and a pedestrian bridge across Route 3.

Board Vice Chair Tom St. Germain asked if the lab would need to request an expansion of lot coverage limits.

“We think we can do it other ways. With current allowable lot coverages, we’ve got more than ample room for the foreseeable future to do what it is that we want,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t want to be proud of the fact we have 27 acres of parking lot in and around Acadia.”

Representatives from the lab historically have presented the board with a new or updated master zoning plan about every five years, he said. The last version was completed in 2007. “It tries to look at where our business is going, where our research is going, and what modifications to the plant infrastructure are going to be required. [The plan includes building] facilities in the current location as need dictates and as resources permit, taking into consideration internal and external community planning objectives,” he said.

Board member Basil Eleftheriou asked whether the planned expansion would increase truck traffic on Schooner Head Road.

“I don’t think you would see a noticeable difference up or down,” Fitzpatrick said.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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