Sen. Curry submits bill to transfer Hutchinson Center ownership to City of Belfast

Mon, 01/22/2024 - 2:00pm

    Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, has submitted legislation to transfer ownership of the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center to the city of Belfast. The legislation comes in the wake of the University’s announced plan to potentially sell or lease the center.

    “I am disappointed it has come to this,” said Sen. Curry, in a Jan. 22 news release. “The Hutchinson Center was gifted by and for the people of the Midcoast and should not be sold off to shore up the University of Maine’s balance sheet. When the University of Maine chose to close, they abandoned their role as stewards of these gifts and the facility’s educational mission. The intent of this legislation is to put our communities in charge of determining how this world class educational facility can be reborn to best serve the educational, cultural and civic needs of the region. I wish to thank Belfast’s city leaders for their willingness to act as short-term stewards of this facility.”

    The Hutchinson Center, in Belfast and opened in 2000, was conceived, designed and built to be a state-of-the-art educational facility by the former credit card bank MBNA.

    Charles Cawley, CEO of MBNA, had personal ties to the Midcoast and intended for this facility to increase access to higher education and workforce development for the people of this region, the release said.

    MBNA spent approximately $12 million to build the first phase of the Hutchinson Center, the release said. Local leaders then raised well over $2 million from community members to fund the second phase of construction as well as for scholarships for students attending the center. Most of these funds were raised during the Great Recession.

    The proposed legislation would temporarily transfer ownership of the center to the city of Belfast, allowing local leaders and residents to review and approve any proposals for the center’s use. This would ensure that the center continues to be used for its originally intended and locally funded purpose.