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UMPI announces buyer for Houlton Center

Following an official request for proposals process this spring, the University of Maine at Presque Isle has selected Community Living Association (CLA) as the buyer for its Houlton Higher Education Center building at 18 Military St. in Houlton. The nonprofit organization, which serves adults with intellectual disabilities, will purchase the building for $525,000 and plans for the space to continue its role as a community resource. The purchase will allow UMPI to maintain a higher education 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.”

Since announcing the need for a more sustainable business model for the building last year—prompted by a drop in tuition revenue and building usage at the Houlton Center over the last five years—UMPI has intended to sell or transfer ownership of the 15,662-square-foot building to a community partner with an aligned mission while retaining space for office, teaching, and technology purposes. UMPI intends to use the revenue from the sale to maintain affordable educational access for its students and invest in infrastructure critical to recruiting and retaining students.

This effort in Houlton to find a more fiscally balanced way to support the educational needs of southern Aroostook County and surrounding areas aligns with the University of Maine System’s (UMS) right-sizing commitment in its new strategic plan. As part of this work, UMS has also sold or listed underutilized buildings and land in Bangor, Belfast, Harmony, Presque Isle, and Portland just since January.

In Houlton, CLA intends to maintain its community-focused mission while allowing as much use of the property for educational and community purposes as possible. CLA, established more than 50 years ago, serves more than 260 clients and has more than 160 staff members. They offer services ranging from case management, residential, day habilitation programs, and work support services.

“The acquisition of the Houlton Higher Education Center affords us additional administration, conference, and classroom space to meet our operational needs,” Rob Moran, CLA Executive Director, said. “We believe the Houlton Center is the perfect location, size, and environment in which to continue the successful operation of our agency.”

CLA will work with existing educational lessees to maintain some space and use of the facility, offer space to external groups for meetings and events, and create space for cultural exhibits and artistic displays in the main lobby. UMPI specifically will pay a $1 a year lease, to be reviewed annually, for a 3,240-square-foot space for classrooms, offices, and a computer lab. This will also be used to house TRIO College Access Services and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. UMPI plans to offer up some of this space when not in use so other higher education partners, such as the University of Maine at Augusta and Northern Maine Community College, can offer classes on site as needed.

The sale to CLA also includes a 260-square-foot carve out for technology currently located in the building. This technology and equipment at the site, owned by UMS and State of Maine, provides internet connectivity for all educational institutions and others in northern and eastern Maine.

UMPI received approval from the UMS Board of Trustees in January to sell or transfer ownership of the Houlton Center building through a competitive public process, allowing proposals to be considered in a fair and transparent manner. A half dozen entities participated in the RFP process this spring. With the purchase and sale agreement currently being finalized, the building handover is expected to take place on July 1, 2024.

 

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