Skip Eaton and Jamie McNair pose with the old Penobscot Nursing Home sign. Eaton recently bought the long-shuttered nursing home in Penobscot and is working with McNair to possibly convert the massive facility into a housing and commercial development. Credit: Courtesy of Jamie McNair

A long-closed nursing home could be the site of a new housing and commercial development in an area of Hancock County that is desperately in need of more places to live.

Skip Eaton’s Eaton Holdings purchased the former Penobscot Nursing Home in mid-August, and he is currently working on a plan to turn the 3-acre property into a mixed-used development known as Northern Bay Commons.

The 30,000-square-foot facility is the largest building in Penobscot, and the home was once the largest taxpayer in the small coastal community. But the property has sat unused for about five years, and its recent sale of about $215,000 was around $40,000 under asking price.

A vacant nursing home facility.
Cleanup efforts inside the old Penobscot Nursing Home are underway. A local developer is considering turning the former home in Penobscot into a mixed-use development. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

Right now, Eaton, who is from Deer Isle, is still in the planning stages. Applications for the property on North Penobscot Road have not been filed with the town office. But getting more housing on the Blue Hill Peninsula is one of the immediate goals.

“Obviously one of the uses of the nursing home would be housing,” said Jamie McNair, Eaton’s real estate agent and the development’s project manager. “It would be essential to the town and the peninsula.”

How many housing units and the kinds of commercial ventures have not been decided and the company is taking suggestions.

“He’s very open to public opinion,” McNair said. “Right now, it’s a blank slate.”

She did expect that the newer wing of the building on the backside of the property would be used for housing. That portion is in better shape and could be converted relatively easily, McNair said.

Other portions of the property likely would take some work, including new roofs and a new septic system.

McNair, who also owns the town’s local market, said that people are buzzing over the sale since Eaton Holdings went before the town’s planning board earlier in August to talk about potential uses for the site.

“It’s been a hub of conversation here for sure,” she said.

The real estate agent that represented Losu LLC, the seller of the facility, said he was relieved to find a buyer after it sat on the market for more than a year.

“We’re just happy to finally sell it,” said Michael Jacobson with KRE Brokerage Group.

Jacobson felt it was a shame that it couldn’t be revived as a nursing home, but there were few people interested in going down that route given the struggles that other nursing homes in the area and throughout Maine have endured.

Property records show the facility has changed hands at least four times several times since it closed.

In addition to the nursing home, the sprawling property also had an assisted living facility. The nursing home closed in 2014 after it was found to have a series of issues including problems with the physical building and the treatment of residents. The assisted living facility closed in 2016.