ELLSWORTH, Maine — With the purchase of a former big-box store finally complete, Ellsworth is set to become the site of Jackson Laboratory’s newest campus.
The Ellsworth location will be the world-renowned genetic research organization’s fourth, including a planned 250,000 square-foot research facility in Connecticut, where ground is expected to break in January. The lab’s flagship campus is in Bar Harbor, and it has a West Coast operation in Sacramento, Calif.
City officials say the Lab’s expansion into Ellsworth is an exciting first step toward developing a thriving research and medical sector, which they say will bring good jobs to the city and have a slew of secondary economic benefits.
Jackson Laboratory first announced its intention to buy the former Lowe’s building, located at 21 Kingsland Crossing, near Route 3, in March. Lowe’s shuttered the store after two years of operation in November 2011 during a wave of closings of underperforming locations nationwide.
John Fitzpatrick, the Lab’s senior facilities director, was unavailable for comment last week, and the final price of the transaction will likely remain undisclosed. But records filed at the Hancock County Registry of Deeds on Oct. 31 show that the sale is complete.
With the eight-month negotiations finally done, the Lab will now begin the process of planning and engineering the facility, which will be used for office space and warehousing, and potentially as a site for mouse production.
The former Lowe’s building is more than 140,000 square feet, with ample parking, and is already set up with adequate utilities for the lab. The entire lot is about 17 acres.
While City Manager Michelle Beal said the Lab has indicated the site may eventually employ more than 200 people, that’s still some time away.
“It’s going to take time for the Lab to plan exactly what functions will be at the space, and then there are the actual renovations,” said Lab spokeswoman Joyce Peterson in a Nov. 8 email. “All told, it could be four years before Jackson employees will be reporting to work there.”
The Lab has previously stated that some of those employees would be new, but others would be moved from Bar Harbor. About 60 percent of the roughly 1,400 Bar Harbor-based employees commute from off-island, according to a release, so the relocated workers would see a cut in their commute time of about an hour.
Ellsworth hopes the lab’s expansion will have a “domino effect” on the city, with the employees spending in the city’s shops, restaurants and other service centers.
“They will be using all of our services here: Retail, health, whatever it is,” sad Micki Sumpter, the city’s economic development director. “Ellsworth is a service center, so those benefits to them will be huge.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.