The COA Mount Desert Center at 141 Main Street, Northeast Harbor, will comprise energy-efficient ... The COA Mount Desert Center at 141 Main Street, Northeast Harbor, will comprise energy-efficient building technologies and classic New England design. Credit: Concept image by architect John GordonThe project will bring approximately 15 students and a guest or faculty member to live downtown, but it will be more than a simple space to house students, said COA President Darron Collins ’92.

“The Center will be a catalyst for deepening COA’s mission to add to the cultural, intellectual, and economic vitality of Mount Desert Island, while supporting MD365’s mission of promoting the long-term economic vitality of the town of Mount Desert,” Collins said.

MD365 acquired the property recently and has entered into a long-term land lease with the college. The property has been vacant since 2008, when the Joy Building came down with two adjacent structures as a result of a fire.

Architect John Gordon, who will design the new building, said that energy concerns would be of paramount importance.

“Our primary goal is for the new building to present a traditional facade that will be a comfortable fit on Main Street in downtown Northeast Harbor,” Gordon said. “In keeping with COA’s long tradition of being a vanguard of sustainability, this building’s energy performance and low-carbon goals will be at the forefront when compared to other similar buildings in this climate.”

Mount Desert 365 is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vita... Mount Desert 365 is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vitality in the town of Mount Desert.The Center will house primarily older COA students who have demonstrated a commitment to leadership and subject matter expertise, Collins said, with participating students engaged in subjects like marine studies, education, or the business and science of sustainability. Collins said that the school will explore partnerships with organizations like Mount Desert Elementary School, MD365, and the Maine Seacoast Mission to maximize student integration and benefit to the Mount Desert community.

Center goals also include engaging students and faculty with research and academic work in Mount Desert, offering clean energy solutions through the COA Community Energy Center, hosting events and talks in the town, and eventually establishing a presence in the Northeast Harbor marina by keeping one of the college’s three research vessels on a slip there.

Mount Desert 365 is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vitality in the town of Mount Desert through expansion of sustainable year-round residential communities and economic revitalization of commercial districts. The nonprofit, formed in 2017, owns a number of commercial and residential lots in Northeast Harbor where they intend to offer affordable year-round commercial space, apartments, or homeownership in a shared-equity, land-lease model.

Mount Desert is one of four townships on Mount Desert Island, along with Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and Tremont.

Later this year the Maine Seacoast Mission will move their administrative offices into a new building under construction in Northeast Harbor, bringing ten new year-round positions into the community. This new partnership with COA will expand upon that and help reinforce MD365’s mission to create a more vital community, MD365 Executive Director Kathy Miller said.

Street view of 141 Main Street in Northeast Harbor, future home of the College of the Atlantic Mo... Street view of 141 Main Street in Northeast Harbor, future home of the College of the Atlantic Mount Desert Center. Northeast harbor is the largest of several villages in the Town of Mount Desert.

“We are delighted to welcome COA students, faculty and staff to be part of the year-round community, adding vitality and diversity,” Miller said. “With focal points on environmental issues, marine studies and education, we believe they will bring new perspectives and energy, as well as add to the population who live and work here every day…and that is key to our revitalization efforts.”

Funding for the new development will come from COA’s Broad Reach Capital Campaign, a $50 million fundraising effort the school launched publicly in 2019. They have so far raised $49.7 million. Campaign goals include $5 million for new student housing. The school, which has capped enrollment at 350, currently houses 50% of their students, Collins said, and with the campaign intends to house 100 more.

College of the Atlantic believes that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree.