A resort lodging firm that owns several hotels in Bar Harbor is buying a shorefront nursing home that is closing down, according to a company official.
Eben Salvatore, director of local operations for Ocean Properties, said Wednesday that the firm is in the process of purchasing Sonogee Rehabilitation & Living Center from Lewiston-based North Country Associates. He did not disclose the sale price for the property.
Salvatore said a closing date on the sale has not been set, in order to give the nursing home time to finish finding new housing for its residents. When it announced the pending closure in February, North Country said it planned to shut down Sonogee by the end of April.
North Country said at the time that declining occupancy of the shorefront facility and a mandated minimum wage increase led to the decision to close. The closure is affecting 53 residents who were living there in late February and 58 employees who are being laid off, North Country officials have said.
According to ProPublica, Sonogee has been cited more than two dozen times by regulators since February 2016 for operational deficiencies that include improper record keeping, substandard resident hygiene and unsanitary kitchen conditions, among other things.
Attempts Wednesday to contact Mary Jane Richards, chief operating officer for North Country Associates, were unsuccessful.
Many nursing homes in the state have been struggling financially for the past several years, with six closing in Maine in 2018, the same number that closed throughout Maine from 2012 through 2017. Since 1995, nearly 40 have closed in Maine.
Salvatore said Ocean Properties, which owns the Bar Harbor Regency hotel immediately south of the nursing home property, approached North Country after learning that the Lewiston firm was looking to sell it. He said the hotel firm has no immediate plans on what it will do with the 28,000-square-foot building or the 4.4-acre lot it sits on.
“We didn’t go looking for a purchase of the property,” Salvatore said, though he added that officials with Ocean Properties have long been interested in what the future of the site might be. The purchase is strategic in that it gives the resort firm options for how it manages its assets on Mount Desert Island, and it prevents another hotel firm from acquiring and redeveloping the site, he said.
In addition to the Regency, Ocean Properties’ other holdings in Bar Harbor include West Street Hotel, the Harborside Hotel & Marina, The Bar Harbor Club and other tourism-oriented businesses and properties.
One possible use of the Sonogee property could be employee housing, though Ocean Properties has not made that decision, according to Salvatore. The firm employs “hundreds” of people every year from May through October, he said, and already is using former lodging properties such as the Park Entrance Motel in Hulls Cove, Ledgelawn Inn in downtown Bar Harbor and the former Days Inn in Trenton to house seasonal employees.
Ocean Properties also owns houses and apartment complexes in Bar Harbor that it uses for employee housing. Like other employers on Mount Desert Island, the firm struggles every year to fill positions and to make sure its workers have a place nearby to stay, he said.
“It’s a need we’ll always have,” Salvatore said.
The nursing home, located on a stretch of shoreline once known as “Millionaire’s Row,” is due south of a mansion that is on the market for $15.5 million. The total assessed value of the Sonogee property, including buildings, is $4.4 million.
Before being converted into a nursing home in the mid-1970s, a mansion also known as Sonogee served as a seasonal summer home for a succession of wealthy families between 1903, when it was built, and the late 1960s, according to a 1970 New York Times article.
Part of the former mansion still stands, along with some original design elements such as marble floors, after having been incorporated decades ago into the larger structure of the nursing home building, Salvatore said.