ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city has given the go-ahead for a Portland company to build a new 91-bed senior living facility on the ball field at the former Bryant E. Moore elementary school on State Street.
First Atlantic Healthcare will relocate its Collier’s Rehab and Nursing Center, located on Birch Avenue, into the new building. In addition to the $70,000 the company paid for the 2.5-acre parcel adjacent to the Moore School, it will give the current Collier’s building to Ellsworth once construction of the new facility is complete.
The city’s planning board approved First Atlantic’s building plan at a meeting earlier this month, and the company plans to begin construction in June, City Council Chairman Gary Fortier said on Wednesday.
What remains to be seen is what the city will do with the old Collier’s building, which has been a nursing home since at least 1970, according to city deed records. It’s about 13,000 square feet, but parking there is limited.
“We have no concrete plans,” Fortier said. “We’ve had it assessed by an engineer and a real estate sales agent. The main building is in very good shape, and we’ve tossed around a few ideas.”
Among those ideas are a relocated Ellsworth Police Department, which currently is located in City Hall. Fortier also said that if Ellsworth voters choose in November to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24, the city will be in the market for a new superintendent’s and administrative office for its independent school district.
“Whatever it is, it would have to be low-traffic” because of the limited parking, Fortier said. “We don’t think it could handle retail or commercial offices or anything like that. But we’ve got a year or so to look at what we want to do with it.
First Atlantic’s new facility — dubbed “Seaport Village Healthcare” — will be nearly five times the size of Collier’s, totaling 63,600 feet. The building will be two stories, and will feature 61 beds requiring skilled nursing care and a 30-bed assisted living wing. Collier’s has only 44 beds.
First Atlantic CEO Ken Bowden did not return a call for comment, but has said previously that the location, a short walk from downtown Ellsworth, is ideal because of the potential for interaction between seniors and children, thanks to its proximity to the former Moore School.
The former school building is home to Downeast Family YMCA’s day care center, as well as a senior center operated by the nonprofit Friends in Action. A city plan to gut the building and expand by about 4,500 square feet to better meet the needs of both groups also was approved by the Planning Board in early May.
When construction is complete in late 2014, the building will be renamed the Moore Community Center. Both the YMCA and Friends in Action will have to find another facility to use during the 15 months of construction on the Moore School, which is scheduled to begin in mid-July.
“This is a great opportunity to have a campus-like facility with the new community center,” Fortier said. “We call it magical. You walk in there, and see the older folks and the kids, you see the interaction and the glow in everyone’s faces. It’s going to be great.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.