Demand continues to grow for the services of the Morrison Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to help people of all ages with disabilities.
That need prompted the purchase of a 125-acre property at 215 Gloucester Hill Road in New Gloucester so that the center can expand its residential facilities there.
The Morrison Center purchased the property from Wayfinder Schools for $1.35 million, in a transaction that closed Aug. 30. Michael Anderson of Malone Commercial Brokers represented the seller and Greg Perry of Cardente Real Estate represented the buyer.
The center previously purchased an adjacent 26 acres in December 2017, said the center’s executive director, Mark Ryder. That property included two group homes operated by Wayfinder. According to its website, Wayfinder offers individualized educational services to students in grades 9 through 12.
Ryder said that after the closing on the 26-acre property he indicated his interest in the 125-acre parcel.
Need for residential care
Courtesy / Morrison Center
Morrison Center is able to use existing residential facilities, including this student dormitory on the left.
“We had a vision, because the need for residential care for children has been increasing so much,” he said. “So we thought that would be a perfect location. We’re thrilled we were able to negotiate a deal.”
The purchase was financed through a traditional bank loan, he said.
All together, the total of 151 acres comes with three residential facilities — an old brick house, a Cape and a ranch — that were set up as such by previous owners, said Ryder. Another building, which might have once served as dormitory, is now occupied by the Morrison Center’s administration offices. And there’s a large, old chicken barn.
The project will be developed in phases, Ryder said.
“It was a major purchase, and we needed to make it operational from the start,” he said.
“So we have short-term and long-term plans, since the properties came with three residential facilities already there.”
For the short-term, four of the residential rooms are now occupied by high school students who attend the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf in Falmouth.
The Morrison Center is working on getting two of the other houses revamped and licensed to provide residential services for developmentally disabled children.
Courtesy / Morrison Center
The campus’s expansive acreage offers opportunities for expansion of the Morrison Center in the future.
The nonprofit will launch a large capital campaign to revamp the entire facility. The campaign’s monetary goal is still to be determined. Time-wise, the goal is to officially launch the campaign in early 2019. It’s expected the campaign will run for two years.
Money from the campaign will go mostly to building new structures, like cottages specifically designed to address client needs, like traumatic brain injury and autism, as well as housing for visiting parents, Ryder said.
“It’s an old property, so most of the existing buildings are hard to revamp,” he said.
He added, “We see as the heart of the facility a variety of specialized cottages that would care for the type of students that Morrison has been taking care of since the 1950s.”
Ryder said industry data shows there’s a significant need for residential care for Morrison’s target population. Currently, he said, many of those students are placed out of state or in adult nursing facilities.
The short-term build-out of three buildings will offer eight bedrooms each, for a total of 24 clients, he said.
“But with 151 acres, we have a lot of room to expand,” he added.
The location is excellent not only for its rural beauty and expanse, but also for its proximity to major population areas and to transportation systems, he said.
Morrison Center, incorporated in the 1950s in Portland, specialize in complex and involved developmental disabilities. Programming includes a preschool and child-care program, a K-12 special-purpose grade school, adult day community support programs, case management services for children and adults and an integrated therapy clinic for all ages. Its support team includes educators, therapists, direct care professionals and a full-time registered nurse.
It operates four other campuses — in Scarborough, Portland and two in Wells. Demand for services is rapidly growing, Ryder said.
That’s illustrated by market demand in Wells, he said. There, the first facility, purchased five years ago, was full to capacity a year later. So it purchased a second Wells property in 2017. On the children’s side, the organization had six K-12 students overall six years ago; today it serves over 35. The adult side doubled in the past five years.